Smooth relay underscores Pedroia's instincts

Smooth relay underscores Pedroia's instincts

BOSTON -- Cutoffs and relays. There's a reason the Red Sox work on those drills so much in Spring Training. The preparation paid off with an exquisite play in Wednesday's 4-2 win over the Orioles.

It happened at the start of the second inning when J.J. Hardy crushed one to the wall in center. Jackie Bradley Jr. jumped for the ball but couldn't get it. Right fielder Mookie Betts fielded the carom and fired toward third.

Second baseman Dustin Pedroia made the key play as the double cut, reading that the throw by Betts was going to be well to the shortstop side of second base.

Pedroia caught the ball on the fly while on the grass right behind shortstop and uncorked a perfect throw to third baseman Travis Shaw, who slapped down the tag to retire Hardy.

"My job was the double-cut on that play, so the throw just took me way out there," Pedroia said. "It worked out for us. That's basically my call. It was fading a lot, so the best chance we had was for me to cut it and make a play."

It was the type of play that made infield instructor Brian Butterfield's night.

"We practiced a lot of that in Spring Training -- double-cuts and all that," said Pedroia. "We've got a good idea if it's off line. I got rid of it as fast as I could. It was a bang-bang play. It was nice. It'd have been tough -- nobody out, runner on third -- so it was a big play for us."

"Pedey is so good at making the off-balance throw, whether it's a ground ball up the middle when he can change directions or a play like we just described," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "He's got the knack for accuracy when he's on the run."

Though Derek Jeter's flip throw to cut down Jeremy Giambi in Game 3 of the 2001 American League Division Series was on a much bigger stage, Pedroia had similar instincts on Tuesday's play.

The flip play

"That's rare," said Shaw. "That's baseball instincts, feeling the game out and knowing where to be. That's Derek Jeter-esque, from the other side."

Though the throw from Betts wasn't perfect, it was in Pedroia's neighborhood.

"It was a great play," Betts said. "I tried to get rid of it as fast and accurate as I could -- even though it wasn't very accurate at all. It was in the vicinity. That's what matters. I just tried to get it in as quick and accurate as I could, and he made a great play for me."

And Shaw -- who looks more comfortable at third base each day -- finished it with a nice play of his own.

"You want to catch it and get it down as quick as you can," said Shaw. "You've got to secure the ball first. Tagging is now an art, because guys can avoid tags. You can't just stick your glove in front of the base anymore with the replays. You've got to make sure you get a piece of them."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.