Gritty rookie opens Series with a bang |

Gritty rookie opens Series with a bang

Mike Fitzpatrick
Associated Press
Vail, CO Colorado
Kathy Willens/APBoston Red Sox manager Terry Francona, right, congratulates second baseman Dustin Pedroia (15) after the Red Sox beat the Colorado Rockies, 13-1, in Game 1 of the World Series Wednesday.

BOSTON ” Dustin Pedroia strolled out of Fenway Park in a white sweat shirt and wasn’t even recognized by most fans filing onto Yawkey Way.

Pretty rare in a town totally obsessed with its sports stars. Must have something to do with his size.

A little guy with a big swing, Pedroia got Boston off to a smashing start Wednesday night by becoming the second player to hit a leadoff home run in a World Series opener.

Generously listed at 5-foot-9, 180 pounds, the gritty rookie connected an 0-1 pitch from Colorado Rockies left-hander Jeff Francis to send the Red Sox racing toward a 13-1 rout.

“I’m usually a singles, doubles guy. Every once in a while I’ll run into one,” Pedroia said. “It’s not like I’m trying to hit home runs.”

The drive barely cleared the Green Monster and bounced back onto the field, but umpires quickly signaled it was a home run and there was no argument.

Pedroia joined Baltimore’s Don Buford as the only players to homer starting Game 1 of the World Series. Buford connected off New York Mets Hall of Famer Tom Seaver in 1969.

“I was just trying to get around the bases. I didn’t know if it went out ” I was trying to trick ’em,” Pedroia said. “I was excited.”

Perhaps folks tuning in on television for the first time this postseason were taken aback by the mighty mite, but he was simply picking up where he left off Sunday.

Pedroia homered, doubled and drove in five runs during Boston’s Game 7 win over Cleveland in the AL championship series. All from the leadoff spot, too.

“You always want to set the tempo, let the other team know you’re here to play,” he said.

Later, Pedroia drew a bases-loaded walk in a seven-run fifth.

Handed the starting job at second base before this season, Pedroia got off to a terrible start. He was stuck in a bad slump at the plate and some wondered whether he could be a productive hitter at the big league level.

But he stayed with his hefty hack and began to break out.

“That’s just who he is,” Red Sox captain Jason Varitek said. “Once he found out who he was again after he struggled early on, that’s who he’s been all year.”

A leading contender for AL Rookie of the Year, Pedroia batted .317 with eight homers, 50 RBIs and 39 doubles, finding his niche at the top of the lineup.

He batted .154 in Boston’s first-round sweep of the Los Angeles Angels, then found his stroke again in the ALCS by going 10-for-29 (.345) with three doubles.

Pedroia became the 18th player to hit a leadoff home run in any Series game. The last to do it was Johnny Damon for the Red Sox in Game 4 of 2004. Boston went on to sweep St. Louis.

Pedroia was the 31st player overall to homer in his first World Series at-bat, a list that includes teammate David Ortiz. Pitcher Jose Santiago, who accomplished the feat for the Red Sox in 1967, was on the field before Wednesday night’s game as part of a tribute to Boston’s pennant-winning team from the “Impossible Dream” season.

Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco, Roger Maris and Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson and Mel Ott also homered in their first Series at-bats.

Pretty impressive list. Now, it includes Boston’s pint-sized power threat.

Just a regular-looking guy ” until he swings the bat.

“He comes out of his shoes, that’s for sure,” Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon said.

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