Potent Pedroia homes in
His first home run of the year couldn’t have made a bigger impression. Dustin Pedroia took the second pitch he saw and blasted it over the Green Monster in his very first at-bat, giving the fans at Fenway Park some fireworks in the season opener against Tampa Bay.
Then he went 183 at-bats before hitting another one.
All the while he offered some form of the same stock lines. One was that he didn’t swing for the fences, he swung for line drives and homers just happened. The other was that he hit his home runs in bunches and eventually the numbers would sort themselves out.
Last night, when the Red Sox held their own home run derby, belting six long balls in a 10-0 win over the Orioles, Pedroia put together one of the bunches he was talking about.
First, he took a 94-m.p.h. fastball from David Hernandez and sent it screaming over the Wall for a two-run homer, the fire-starter in a three-run first inning. Then, leading off the third, he squeezed one in the left-field corner for a solo homer, the first salvo in what would be a four-run inning for the Sox.
The two shots put him at 12 home runs for the year and also gave him the first multihomer game of his career.
After seeing the way Pedroia ripped his first homer, all Sox manager Terry Francona could do was laugh when the second baseman got back to the dugout.
“There’s nothing to say,’’ Francona said. “There’s no room to say anything. He’s doing all the talking. You just sit there and laugh.’’
After going 3 for 26 over the seven games of the Sox’ last road trip, Pedroia looked like a completely different player at the plate last night. He finished 2 for 3 with 3 RBIs and a walk, serving as a catalyst for the team’s offensive outburst.
“It’s good to be home after that road trip,’’ Pedroia said. “We lose three out of four in Chicago, you want to get home and play well and just keep the atmosphere relaxed.’’
As for smacking the life out of Hernandez’s fastball, it was almost as if he owed it to the Orioles rookie, who induced 17 fly balls in his last start at Fenway.
“We got on top of his fastball tonight,’’ Pedroia said. “He has good stuff, he throws hard, but the more and more you see guys in the division, you have a better approach of how you’re going to face him.’’
His philosophy at the plate, he said, was no different from when he was in that long stretch without a homer.
“Just hit the ball hard like always,’’ he said. “Just find a way to hit the ball hard. If you do that, then good things are going to happen. I’m not trying to hit home runs. I’m just trying to hit line drives. Sometimes they get up in the air and get out of here.
“I just put good swings on good pitches to hit. That’s the only thing I’m trying to do. If I get a good pitch to hit, I’m trying to hit it.’’
And as far as the numbers taking care of themselves, he’s three homers shy of the 15 he hit a year ago.
“You get more at-bats throughout the year, and it all evens out,’’ Pedroia said. “It’s not like I’m going to hit 30 home runs in a year or anything like that. But I’m definitely going to hit some.’’
Joking after the game, when he found out that it was Pedroia’s first multihomer game, David Ortiz made sure to point out one detail.
“He’s got 35 more two-home run games to go to catch me,’’ Ortiz said.
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.