- Joe McDonald, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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The veteran second baseman hates that the team is losing. He's bothered that he and his teammates are being scrutinized for events that have occurred off the field. And he feels personally responsible because he wants nothing more than to win in this town and for these fans.
"I'm giving everything I have to the Red Sox," he said.
He produced big returns Thursday, going 4-for-6 with a three-run homer and five RBIs. He nearly had five hits, but one was ruled an error by the third baseman. Despite his contributions, the Los Angeles Angels defeated the Red Sox 14-13 in 10 innings at Fenway Park.
"It was a wild game," Pedroia said. "We've gotta try to find a way to win those."
Unfortunately, after being swept by the Angels, the Red Sox are 13½ games back in the AL East, ahead of only last-place Toronto. According to ESPN Stats & Information researcher Nick Loucks, the last time they were that far back in the division at least this late in the season was Oct. 3, 2001, when they were 16½ games back.
Injured Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz is the lone remaining representative of both the 2004 and 2007 World Series teams, but many current players have had a hand in recent winning seasons -- players such as Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz (who was not active for the 2007 postseason), Daisuke Matsuzaka and Josh Beckett.
Since the start of last September, when the club posted a 7-20 record during a major meltdown and failed to earn a postseason berth on the final day of the regular season, this team has experienced more disappointment than any of these players are accustomed to.
"Losing in this atmosphere is unacceptable and we all take responsibility for it," Pedroia said. "The season's not over. I'm not quitting by any means and neither is any one of our guys. We're going to go out and play as hard as we can and try to win games."
He gave voice to his frustration about losing, which has contributed to the uncomfortable atmosphere around Fenway, where the Sox are eight games under .500 at 29-37. That's a .439 winning percentage -- which, if it doesn't improve, stats guru Loucks notes, would be the lowest figure since 1965, when the Sox were 34-47 (.420) at home.
"It's tough when you want to do something so bad and you work real hard for a goal, and then you're not playing well and it's not going your way, it's frustrating," he said. "We put in a lot of hard work, and the little things that go wrong during the game, that's the stuff that gets to you, but you've got to try to put it behind you and go out and work even harder to make your team better.
"I've been here, and this is my sixth year, and the first five it seemed like you just showed up to the ballpark and do all you can to help your team win and that's all you worried about. We're trying to do that right now. We're trying to focus on the game and worry about playing a baseball game. Some of it has been a little trying this year, but we're trying to put all the stuff behind us and play baseball."
Nothing has gone the team's way, and it's starting to boil over. It appears the Red Sox will miss the postseason for the third consecutive year.
"It's the big leagues, man," Pedroia said. "I'm sure guys lose sight of that this game is fun. We're playing in a great city with the best ballpark in sports, so it should be fun. Guys should come to the field ready to play hard and ready to win and enjoy it."
If the Red Sox were in first place, a lot of the outside crap would disappear. The best way to regain the trust of the fan base, the players know, is simply by winning.
Even Pedroia, a longtime fan favorite in this city, has come under fire. He's hurt by the notion he's part of the problem, when in fact he's been trying to be part of the solution.
"I hope that hard work and wins will win back the trust of the fans and the city, because I love this place and I love the fans," he said. "They've treated me great and we plan on making them happy soon."
The offseason drama began immediately following the 2011 season. And when ownership hired Bobby Valentine as the manager, he wasn't a popular choice for the players. That disconnect remained for the majority of the season, but when ownership and general manager Bobby Valentine announced two weeks ago that Valentine was not going anywhere and he would remain the manager for at least the remainder of the season, the message was heard loud and clear.
Still, nothing has gone right from this club, both on and off the field, especially the past few weeks with reports of players complaining to ownership and meetings being held and text messages being sent. A final telling nugget from Loucks: The Sox, at 59-66, haven't been this far under .500 this late in the year since 1992, when they were 56-68 on Aug. 23.
"It's tough. We're all family, man," Pedroia said. "That's the way we view our team, and when things are said about one certain guy or another guy, it just doesn't affect that person, it affects everybody and that's the tough part as a team to stay together is when something is pulling you in a different direction, whether someone says something bad about Bobby, me or anybody, it still affects our guys. We understand that if you don't play well in Boston, you're going to get criticized and it makes it tough, but we've got to find a way to overcome that and play winning baseball and not let this place down.
"Obviously, the way last year ended, I think that left a sour taste, not only in our team's mouth, but the city, the fans, everybody. I think it's added expectation and pressure to win so that goes away. At some points this year, we've probably put a little bit too much pressure on ourselves as players to try to stop that. I know I have. I want to win more than anybody and when you try to go out there and create something and make something happen, for me as a player, if you try to get a hit, you don't get a hit. You don't let the game come to you and let your talents come out. At times we've done that, but the biggest thing is, you have to win here."
The Red Sox don't want to make excuses and blame their poor performance on all the injuries they've suffered. A total of 27 players (1,258 games) have been on the DL, including Pedroia, who missed 11 games in the middle of July with a sprained right thumb. The injury has been bothering him all season.
"I expect our team, whoever's here, to come out and play their hearts out and win the game," he said. "You can't plan for freak injuries because every team goes through that. We've been hit hard, but the Yankees have lost Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia, they've had big injuries, too, but they've had other guys step up and fill the role, so injuries aren't an excuse. We've just got to come out and try to find a way to go on a run."
The likelihood of sneaking into the playoffs over the remaining 37 games of the regular season is a long shot. Losing like this is not in Pedroia's DNA. He wants to win for his teammates and he wants to win for the fans, who haven't witnessed a losing season at Fenway since 1997 (39-42). He's devastated that it's not happening.
"We don't want to let anybody down, and I feel like I have. I feel like the team has," he said. "We want to make sure we win and make this a special place."
Dustin Pedroia is searching for the winning formula and wants to deliver.