ANAHEIM, Calif. — It was a few minutes before 4 p.m. here Sunday, 21 hours until the nonwaiver trade deadline, and the faces of the half-dozen Boston Red Sox executives seated above home plate were growing longer than the team’s scoreless drought, which had just been snapped at 16 consecutive innings.
That’s when Dustin Pedroia stepped to the plate.
And if you think the Red Sox have gotten a bigger or more cathartic hit all season than Pedroia’s three-run home run against Los Angeles Angels closer Huston Street, well, you should have seen general manager Mike Hazen when the ball landed in front of the rocks beyond the fence in straightaway center field. Hazen rose from his chair, pumped his fist and got loud, almost certainly mirroring the reaction of fans watching on television back in New England.
Later, after the Sox recorded the final three outs in a 5-3 come-from-behind victory that salvaged a split of the four-game series against the last-place Angels, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski walked through the clubhouse, smiled and said, “That was a big one.” Manager John Farrell, who might have saved Pedroia from a fifth-inning ejection, talked about the “cork getting popped” on a tension-filled weekend. And shortstop Xander Bogaerts put into perspective what everyone in the clubhouse was thinking about the potential impact of the Red Sox’s third win in 42 games when trailing after the eighth inning.
“We’ve been through a lot these past few days, the past week-plus, a lot of tough losses,” said Bogaerts, who followed Pedroia’s homer with a solo shot and pointed emphatically into the dugout as he rounded first base. “This was a special one. It can definitely change the whole season around for us. That’s probably what everyone is hoping.”
Look, one win — even a win as emotional as this one — won’t change the Red Sox’s plan of action leading up to Monday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline. For the past four days, a delegation of 10 club officials, led by Dombrowski, Hazen and team president Sam Kennedy, hunkered down at the team hotel in Costa Mesa and an old radio booth at Angel Stadium to contact other teams, compare notes about various players and strategize on how best to improve the roster.
So far, they have done nothing.
In a market that remains light on high-quality starters, the Sox have been unwilling to pay the exorbitant price in prospects and major-league talent to acquire Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale or talented lefty Jose Quintana. Adding either pitcher would be a difference-maker, but for a team that is 2-29 when it scores fewer than four runs and hasn’t proven capable of winning the low-scoring games that are so prevalent in the playoffs, would it make enough of a difference to warrant trading top prospects Yoan Moncada or Andrew Benintendi or even 24-year-old catcher/left fielder Blake Swihart or young lefty Eduardo Rodriguez?
After seven losses in the last nine games, the answer here is no.
But by jarring the Red Sox from their midsummer slumber with his second career go-ahead homer in the ninth inning or later (the other, incidentally, also came against Street on June 24, 2010), Pedroia provided a reminder that standing pat isn’t the best course of action either.
The Red Sox are still only 1½ games out of first place in a three-way AL East fight and in possession of the second berth in a tight wild-card race. If Dombrowski and Hazen are able to improve the margins of the roster at a reasonable cost, they should act before Monday. The bullpen, in particular, still needs to be bolstered, even though closer Craig Kimbrel could be reinstated from the disabled list as soon as Monday.
Pedroia almost didn’t have a chance to play the hero.
Angels starter Tyler Skaggs had already struck him out twice when plate umpire Gabe Morales rung him up again in the fifth inning on a curveball that Pedroia believed was high. Pedroia protested, and as he walked away, turned over his shoulder to continue giving Morales an earful.
“I just said, ‘I’m only 5-foot-7. I’m going to need a trampoline to hit that damn ball,'” Pedroia said, not likely relaying his comments verbatim. “What are we doing here? This is the major leagues. [Skaggs] was really good. He had a good curveball, and he didn’t need any help.”
Sensing that Pedroia was “on the verge” of getting tossed, Farrell bolted from the dugout and got the heave-ho from Morales instead.
“I was out supporting Pedey,” Farrell said, “and to be honest, from the dugout, the height of the pitch, he had every right to complain. But as quick as his trigger was, Pedey might have been very close.”
Farrell said he was in the clubhouse when Pedroia connected against Street, and “by the time it landed, I was in the runway.” And judging by Hazen’s reaction, it gave the Red Sox such a boost that they almost didn’t need a plane to fly to Seattle after the game.
“Just looking at the moment and looking at the split of the series, it was key,” Farrell said. “Hopefully it allows them to breathe, our offense to breathe, relax, play the game and have some fun.”
Said Pedroia: “We’ve got a long way to go. Know what I mean? We’ve got a good team. We feel we’ve got a good team. We just have to go out there and compete and win as many games as we can.”
One more trade, within reason, would help a cause that Pedroia reminded everyone is still worth fighting for.