BOSTON -- This region has had enough practice reacting hysterically to an injury to one of their team's franchise players.
So let's say up front that TV news editors and the Twitterverse turned upside down last week by Tom Brady should take a deep breath: No one is forecasting the worst for Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. He wasn't walking around the clubhouse on crutches, nor was he seen wearing a walking boot, before he slipped out a side entrance to avoid reporters waiting for him at his locker.
Still, because he'd fouled a ball off his left shin Saturday, very close to the place where he'd fractured his foot doing the exact same thing just more than three years ago in San Francisco -- the original injury requiring crutches, a boot and, ultimately, surgery -- Pedroia's condition was a matter of some concern in an otherwise contented Sox clubhouse after a 6-1 win over the New York Yankees restored some order to their universe.
"He's sore," said manager John Farrell, who did not send Pedroia out for the ninth inning after he fouled a pitch from Yankees reliever Adam Warren off his shin, was checked by trainers, then finished the eighth-inning at-bat by striking out.
"The foul ball got him just above the ankle on the shin. We'll check in the morning, but at this point we don't anticipate missing any time."
Farrell noted that initial pictures taken via a Fluoroscan were negative, but that Pedroia would be re-evaluated prior to Sunday night's game against the Yankees. Pedroia's track record suggests he won't be very forthcoming about the severity of the injury if he can avoid it: This is the same guy, remember, who was mightily annoyed that it became public knowledge that he had played with a torn UCL ligament in his left thumb weeks after he'd sustained the injury in the season opener in New York.
"If he comes in tomorrow with any increased soreness," Farrell said, "we'll take every precaution needed."
Farrell's need to proceed cautiously already has been extended to a couple of other Sox regulars: First baseman Mike Napoli was scratched from Saturday's lineup because of a flare-up of plantar fasciitis, an issue Napoli has been dealing with for some time, and Farrell reinstated outfielder Shane Victorino, who came out of Friday's game with a sore hamstring and was supposed to sit Saturday.
With 37 games left, the Sox are trying to maintain a stiff upper lip -- and their hold on first place -- during the toughest part of their schedule. Having enough healthy bodies would help.
"We keep that up," said pitcher Jake Peavy, "and I like our chances."
They also were assured of awakening Sunday still in sole possession of first place in the AL East. They began Saturday a game up on the Tampa Bay Rays, who lost to Toronto on Saturday night in the Trop, giving Boston a two-game lead entering Sunday. While the Sox are home for just three days before heading back on the road with a flight to San Francisco on Monday morning, Farrell said even a brief pit stop had its benefits.
"At home, a full night's rest is a pretty good recipe for this team," Farrell said, "as it's been shown throughout the course of this year.
"I think we were completely confident we would come out and put together a solid outing. We know what we're going up against. I'm not making excuses, but you get in at 3:30 in the morning, it's going to have a carryover. A full day to prepare, normal routine gets everybody in their right starting spot."
Earlier in the week, Lackey had expressed to the Boston Globe his disgust that Alex Rodriguez was playing while his suspension was being appealed, leading to speculation that maybe he'd have a necktie for A-Rod.
But while A-Rod's lawyer was launching head-high fastballs at the Yankees, claiming in a New York Times interview that the club played Rodriguez while he was hurt in hopes of hastening an end to his career, Lackey stayed on course, which on this day meant inducing the Yankees to pound baseballs into the ground with regularity.
Lackey also insisted afterward that his comments were "overblown," saying he had responded to a leading question.
"I had somebody come up to me and ask me, 'Don't you think that it's unfair somebody's playing?' and I agreed with him," Lackey said. "So that was a little bit overblown, for sure."
Rodriguez, who had two hits in the Yankees' win Friday, walked on a full count in his first at-bat against Lackey in the second inning Saturday, was called out on strikes in the fourth and had a hit taken away from him in the sixth by a terrific diving stop by Pedroia. Lackey shrugged off the suggestion that the mano-a-mano with A-Rod registered more than usual.
"We were just trying to win a game today," Lackey said. "He wasn't any [more] important as any of the other guys in the lineup. Trying to get him out just like the rest of them."
So, contrary to what he had told the Globe last week, Lackey said he took no issue with Rodriguez playing while under appeal.
"I mean that's the system that we agreed upon as a union," Lackey said. "So, yeah, that's it."
For the second straight game, Rodriguez drew the censure of the crowd on his every move, with the one exception being just before the first pitch, when he stuffed a ball into the glove of a child sitting near the visitors' dugout.
Lackey has some knowledge of what it's like to be in disfavor with folks here; the boos became a regular accompaniment to his mound appearances in 2011, when pitching through a bad elbow resulted in the worst ERA of any Sox starter ever.
Saturday afternoon, he received what might have been the loudest ovation he has received since coming to the Red Sox, a crowd of 37,517 showing appreciation not only for his effort against the Yankees, but his general excellence all season.
The Texan, for whom the boos have probably not been erased from memory, took in the cheers stoically, with no visible acknowledgment until he arrived at the dugout, where pitcher Ryan Dempster, who pitches Sunday night's rubber game, greeted him with a hearty handshake and David Ortiz wrapped him in a hug.
"It's nice, for sure," Lackey said. "It was a nice ovation, especially the guys in the dugout that were standing up, waiting on me. It's always fun."
The Yankees grounded into 15 outs in the 6 2/3 innings worked by Lackey, who fielded five comebackers himself like a right-handed Jim Kaat, the pitcher who won 16 Gold Gloves before retiring to the broadcast booth. "I don't know about that," he said of the reference to Kaat.
After a couple of three-error nights, the Sox defense was flawless Saturday, shortstop Stephen Drew turning a pop fly into shallow center into a double play, and Pedroia triggering one of the day's biggest cheers with his play on Rodriguez.
While Lackey kept the Yankees at bay, allowing just a run on six hits and three walks, the Red Sox, who have had a hellacious time scoring runs of late (14 in their past 5 games), broke through against Hiroki Kuroda, not the ideal guy to break out of a funk against. Kuroda came into the game with an 0.94 ERA since the start of July, and in five of his seven starts during that span posted only zeroes.
But the Sox posted three runs in the fourth, a double lined on one hop into the right-field seats by David Ortiz the opening salvo, and a throwing error by first baseman Lyle Overbay providing the break the Sox needed. Throw in a surprise double steal with Mike Carp at the front end, a play that might have startled even umpire Bill Welke, who failed to acknowledge that Carp had been tagged out by Rodriguez, and singles by Will Middlebrooks and Jacoby Ellsbury, and the Sox had three runs.
Ortiz then blasted his 24th home run off Yankee reliever Adam Warren in the seventh to make it 6-1.
"We didn't think anything other than a positive outcome today," Farrell said. "It's shown to be a very resilient group, one that is looking to win every day we walk on the field. That intangible, along with the depth, could potentially be another reason why we haven't got into a prolonged downturn. We've got a good team."