While virtually no one in the Red Sox clubhouse expressed frustration at not closing out the Angels last night in their American League Division Series, there was plenty of frustration on a personal level in front of one locker.
Dustin Pedroia, as he did in the ALDS last season, had started extraordinarily slowly. His MVP-caliber regular season has devolved into hard-hit outs and little else in the playoffs.
"It's a tough loss, obviously," Pedroia said. "It's my fault, man. I've got to get on [expletive] base. That's it. I've got to help our team win. I didn't do that, haven't done that all series. So I blame this one on me. Everyone else is battling, I am too, but no results."
Pedroia started last night by getting on base, as Joe Saunders hit him on the left shin in the first inning. But he went no farther than first base, and he would go no farther in his final five at bats.
That left him at 0 for 13, and clearly upset at his performance.
"I'm frustrated," Pedroia said. "I hit some balls hard, just didn't get anything going. It's a tough time to go 0 for 13, or whatever the heck I am. I'll battle. Everyone knows that. It's not a lack of effort. I've got to find a way to get on base for these guys."
But there was no concern in the manager's office over Pedroia before the game, as there rarely is. Last year, Pedroia started the postseason hitting .214 (2 for 13, two doubles). He upped that to a scintillating .345 with three doubles in his 10 hits in the ALCS, and added five hits in 18 at-bats in the World Series.
"I don't think Pedey's gotten any hits and nobody seems to be panicking there," Terry Francona said. "He hit a ball that was almost a home run [caught by Garret Anderson at the short wall in left in Game 2]. He hit a liner to second base. Just a small sample size. That's just the way it goes."
Pedroia has said that he pressed at the start last year, trying to hit a home run on every pitch. Not so this year. Then again, as Francona said, "he always does," about trying to hit homers.
"He's a known threat," said Francona. "Teams need to treat him like that. He's one of the best players in the game."
Crisp gets the call
Hero one game, on the bench the next.
J.D. Drew did nothing wrong to get a seat on the bench last night at Fenway Park for Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Angels, but that's where he found himself. It was because of a combination of not wanting to push Drew's balky back too far, and Coco Crisp's numbers against Saunders.
While Drew - who got a monster reception before yesterday's game thanks to his ninth-inning homer Friday in Game 2 - hadn't started against a lefty since facing John Danks of the White Sox Aug. 11, Crisp was batting .294 (5 for 17) against Saunders, with a home run and four RBIs. That was second only to Pedroia (7 for 18, .389) among Sox players with at least five at-bats off Saunders.
"J.D. is physically doing pretty well," Francona said before Game 3. "I do think we have to recognize the fact that he's played two games in a row, even though there's a day off, for the first time in about 50 days."
Drew made it into the game in the ninth, hitting for Jason Varitek against righthander Scot Shields, but struck out swinging.
The start was Crisp's first in a postseason game since Jacoby Ellsbury supplanted him in center field in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Indians last season. Crisp has had his own injury issue since the end of the season, a problem with the ball of his left foot. He received an injection the final week of the regular season.
"That has not kept him out of any games," Francona said. "But I don't think until the season's over that's going to be really where it's feeling good."
Crisp didn't get a hit off Saunders, but singled and stole second off Jered Weaver in the 11th.
Mike Lowell, who looked to be struggling mightily last night, could barely walk as he came into the clubhouse after the game. He was late, as many of his teammates had already done sessions with the media and moved on. He had difficulty putting on his pants.
Asked if he would be in the lineup for tonight's game, Lowell said, "I don't know. We'll see [today]."
Lowell had looked staggered on multiple defensive plays, including an Mark Teixeira's single in the eighth and a ninth-inning single down the line by Torii Hunter on which the Angels' outfielder was cut down at second base by a good throw from Jason Bay.
Lowell appeared overmatched at the plate as well, especially during a checked swing in the 10th inning on which he thought he had drawn a walk. (He did eventually work the walk and was replaced by pinch-runner Alex Cora.)
The third baseman sat out of Game 3 in order to rest up for Saunders, but he went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts.
Lester on tap
With another game for the Red Sox comes another game for Jon Lester, and another matchup with John Lackey. Lester takes the ball in a place in which he's 11-1 with a 2.49 ERA (and a no-hitter) this season.
"I guess I'm just comfortable here," Lester said after last night's game in an understatement of epic proportions.
In Game 1, Lester was the winning pitcher, allowing just a single run in seven innings. He allowed six hits and struck out seven.
"I think it's just you've got that extra edge," Lester said of his ability to come up big in big situations.
"That little extra intensity of the game. I guess that puts you on your toes a little bit more. And being able to go out and execute pitches, and I've been fortunate to do that. And hopefully I'll continue to do that [tonight]."
One part of the Angels' lineup that cried out for emergence was the bottom third. Through the first two games of this ALDS, the Nos. 7-9 hitters combined to go 2 for 24 with 11 strikeouts.
"They've struggled," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "They've done a great job for the start of the season. But we haven't found that continuity. We really feel it's a deep lineup, but it hasn't surfaced yet in these playoffs."
Asked why they've struggled, Scioscia said, "I think it's a combination of things. You have to realize, we're facing good pitching.
"It's not, you know, a fluke that you see guys like Lester with their record and what they've done and [Daisuke] Matsuzaka and you know [Josh] Beckett [last night's starter]. These guys are good pitchers."
Against Beckett last night, though, the bottom third ramped up its production, combining to go 3 for 9 with two home runs and three RBIs (all by catcher Mike Napoli) and one strikeout.
Even second baseman Howie Kendrick, who was 0 for 9 with five strikeouts in the first two games, snapped his playoff skein in the fifth when he singled to center on Beckett's 99th pitch.
On a tear
With six hits in 14 at-bats in the first three games against the Angels, Ellsbury has quickly improved on his postseason success from 2007. He entered the ALDS with a .360 average in the playoffs. He improved that mark to .385. He has six doubles and 10 runs in 14 career playoff games. In his last five playoff games, Ellsbury is 12 for 23 .
Michael Vega of the Globe staff contributed to this report; Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.