On June 25th, a surging Boston Red Sox team came into San Francisco just a couple games back of the division leading New York Yankees. That night, however, one of the the club's emotional and vocal leaders went down.
Dustin Pedroia did something he had done hundreds of times prior, fouled a ball off his foot, but this time the blow was far more severe than before. Pedroia suffered a broken bone in his foot and would be placed on the DL, creating a huge hole at second base and the absence of a versatile bat in the lineup.
Fast forward to tonight. Since then the Red Sox have suffered a rash of injuries, the biggest of which being Kevin Youkilis' torn thumb ligament. They now sit six games (in the loss column) behind both Tampa Bay and New York who are tied for the division lead.
Tonight, they get one of their two biggest vocal leaders back on the field, and probably more importantly, out of the dugout as Pedroia has been pestering his teammates and coaches with his anxiousness to get back on the field. They need him on the field and in the lineup now more than ever as Jacoby Ellsbury now appears done for the year.
His youthful enthusiasm often acts as a catalyst for the energy of the ballclub. To be quite honest, despite their resilience to win through injuries, this has been a very boring, droll Red Sox team. Pedroia provides an immeasurable amount of contagious energy that is immediately injected into the rest of the team. He's gritty, hot-headed, enthusiastic, and most importantly passionate. All of these are attributes which have been absent from the team for the past six weeks.
Besides his energy, the Sox have missed a former MVP talent. At the time of his injury, Pedroia was hitting .374 in June with am impressive collection of multi-hit games. His bat will be a key if the Sox can hope to make a surge and sneak up on the Rays or Yanks.
Listening to him talk about their chances today brought back memories of a team that really looked into the game. It has been a long month and a half for "the Nation", having to rely guys like J. D. Drew to come up with a big hit. Not to say Drew isn't a good ballplayer, but he's about as interesting to watch as the 743rd day of Brett Favre coverage ESPN is now wrapped up in.
There are still a lot of games left to play this season, and down six with 44 to play, you can be sure there is at least one player out there who is going to give it everything he has to win every single one of them. If some of that energy can rub off on what has been a lackadaisical Boston squad, it could make for an electrifying finish.