It took Dustin a Pedroia until May to get his first homer of the season, but that first one has turned out to be a doozy. The second baseman's grand slam did not win the game for the Red Sox, but it at least sealed the deal on a 7-1 rout of one of the league's best teams in the Oakland Athletics.
The Sox would get out to a rare early lead in the second. Doubles from Grady Sizemore and Jackie Bradley around an A.J. Pierzynski single proved enough for two runs off of Oakland starter Dan Straily. That would be the first of three times on base for Jackie Bradley Jr., whose bat seems to be coming around of late, however quietly.
Spotted the lead, Clay Buchholz would quickly give a run back to the Athletics, allowing a leadoff triple in the third with a wild pitch bringing a decent escape attempt to an end. But by-and-large, Buchholz had one of his best games of the year Friday night. He was pitching with velocity, throwing mostly strikes, and actually managing to miss some bats in the process. At his best, Clay's curveball and changeup play a more important role in his repertoire than they did tonight, but any positive sign is a big deal given the way the season has started for him.
Now, the Athletics would not end up scoring again on the night, making those first two runs "enough." But there's every possibility that the Athletics would have picked up at least the one extra run had they been playing for just that one into the late innings. And so we turn to the sixth, where the game turned from a nail-biter into a rout. The stage was set by the bottom of the lineup, with singles from Xander Bogaerts and A.J. Pierzynski combining with a Jackie Bradley Jr. walk loading the bases. Up came Dustin Pedroia against reliever Ryan Cook, fresh into the game himself. Pedroia fell behind 0-2, but the third slider Cook sent his way was a hanger. The second baseman put it high in the air to left field, and this time there was no fan interference when the ball bounced off the shelf on the Monster. Pedroia rounded the bases with a grand slam that was upheld on further review.
From there, the only danger the Red Sox really faced came when Edward Mujica allowed a pair of leadoff baserunners in the eighth. There, defense saved the day, with Mike Napoli snagging a Brandon Moss line drive, and Jackie Bradley racing back to the wall in center to take extra bases away from Yoenis Cespedes before firing back in to the infield, where the Sox doubled up Josh Donaldson off first.
All-told, a well-played game from a team that really needed one. The long climb back out of the hole begins anew.