- Gordon Edes, Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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DETROIT -- Say this for Dustin Pedroia: The man stays in character, even on a night an uncharacteristic bobble by the Red Sox second baseman figured prominently in Boston's 7-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series on Wednesday night.
That became abundantly clear when Pedroia, who'd already shouldered the responsibility for his failure to turn an inning-ending double play on Jose Iglesias' smash during the Tigers' five-run second inning, was asked about Iglesias' hard takeout slide in the sixth inning.
"The guy bounced off of me,'' a suddenly feisty Pedroia said, an incredulous look on his face. "That shows I'm stronger than he is.''
Pedroia might have stumbled, but losing pitcher Jake Peavy refused to let him take the fall for Wednesday's loss. Not on a night in which the Red Sox pitcher lamented his own failure to deliver the kind of return he'd given the Sox in the division series, when he'd held the Tampa Bay Rays to one run in 5 2/3 innings, and for which they had hoped for when they parted with Iglesias in a trade-deadline deal.
"Obviously he can say that all he wants to,'' Peavy said, "but there's no one I'd rather have the ball hit to. You can put me out there with just Dustin Pedroia behind me as the lone defender and we'll go to war.
"Obviously the ball was hit hard, it was a tough play. If we do the double play, we're out of the inning. We all understand that. There's absolutely nothing on him. I was the reason we were in that. And I had a chance obviously after that to pick him up, and just didn't make a good enough pitch to get us out of the inning.
"Dustin's our leader. We're going to be together, we're going to have each other's backs, for sure. But this is on me, and what I wasn't able to execute tonight.''
Peavy offered no foreshadowing in the first inning of the problems to follow soon thereafter. The first was a tidy three-up, three-down affair in which he threw only a dozen pitches, the best of which was a front-door slider that froze Miguel Cabrera for a called third strike after he'd gone away from the Tigers' slugger on five straight pitches.
"I felt good,'' Peavy said, "but my fastball command wasn't quite what it should be. The ball was going north and south on me, and I couldn't keep the ball in the strike zone enough. That's completely on me. No reason, just the ball was moving more than usual. I had really good stuff.''
Without command, the good stuff translated into bad outcomes. The second inning started innocently enough when Victor Martinez lined an opposite-field single to left, but then Peavy walked Jhonny Peralta on four pitches and lost Alex Avila on a full count, loading the bases. Jacoby Ellsbury made an excellent diving catch on Omar Infante's flare to center, leaving everyone in place, but then Peavy issued his third walk of the inning, and the second on four pitches, to Austin Jackson, the one hitter in the Detroit lineup that manager Jim Leyland was trying to hide, dropping him from leadoff to the 8-hole because he'd whiffed 18 times in 33 at-bats during the postseason.
Jackson's walk forced Martinez home with the first run of the game. It could have ended there, if Pedroia had been able to turn two on Iglesias' low one-hop smash.
"The second inning, it's my fault,'' Pedroia said. "We've got to turn the double play on the ball Iggy hit, but we didn't.
"It was hit hard. Just one of those things, he kind of back-spun it. I thought it was going to hop up and it stayed down. It went out of the web of my glove, and we got one out instead of two. It's my responsibility to turn double plays, Peavy got a ground ball, and I didn't field it cleanly.''
Pedroia rejected the suggestion that he might have rushed the play knowing that Iglesias was hustling down the line. "That ball was smoked,'' he said. "If I catch it, I'm getting two.''
The next batter was Torii Hunter, starting in the leadoff spot for the first time since he was with the Twins in 1999. He lined a double to left, scoring two runs, and Miguel Cabrera, a 2-hole hitter for the first time since 2004, followed with an RBI single to make it 5-0.
Infante doubled and Jackson singled off Pedroia's glove to start the fourth, and Peavy's night was done after throwing just 65 pitches, 35 for strikes. He had allowed more baserunners (10) than he had recorded outs (nine), and his strike percentage of 53.9 was the third-worst of his career, regular season or postseason, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
Peavy faced 590 batters in 2013. He went to a 3-0 count four times, and walked a batter on four pitches just three times. In his career, he has faced 8,018 batters. Only 106 have walked on four pitches. That's 1 percent.
So to walk two in an inning on four pitches, as he did Wednesday night?
"When I've done that, it's when you don't feel good,'' he said.
That was the maddening part, to feel the way he did Wednesday but be unable to harness it. "I was trying to find a feel where I could turn the ball loose to where it ended up where you wanted it to end up,'' he said. "It's frustrating when you feel that way and can't reel it in and make the most of it. The movement I had tonight, if I could have reeled it in in the second inning, things could have been a little different.''
If Peavy is to start again this October, it will be in the World Series. He said he will volunteer to be in the bullpen this weekend, the Tigers having assured with Wednesday's victory that the series will return to Boston for at least one game, possibly two.
"Every part of me obviously wants another crack at getting back out there,'' he said. "It's heartbreaking to feel like you let down the guys tonight, but I'm not going to sit here and get down on myself, nor is anyone else.
"We got beat tonight. As upsetting as it is, we've got another game in 24 hours, and we've got to get ready for it.''
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