Pedroia's stop: The play that saved season?

NEW YORK -- How big was second baseman Dustin Pedroia's diving stop of Curtis Granderson's smash in the 13th inning?

“That kid wills himself,’’ Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “Who knows? That might have saved our season, and nobody else makes that play.’’

In a season in which Pedroia’s defense has been immense, it is hard to single out one play standing out, but this comes close: Granderson hit a one-hop bullet to Pedroia’s left that he somehow snatched even as it flew past him. He then threw out the swift Granderson from his knees.

“He kind of hit it with some topspin on it,’’ Pedroia said. “I just tried to get a glove on it and knock it down. Lucky, it stuck in my mitt.’’

Granderson hit the ball off lefty Franklin Morales, who walked the next two batters but recovered to retire Nick Swisher on a fly ball to right and struck out Brett Gardner, giving a fist pump as he came off the mound. Morales threw a season-high 44 pitches in his outing, his two innings contributing to a one-hit, eight-inning performance by the Sox bullpen.

Pedroia, meanwhile, was involved in two more notable plays. The first was when he tried to score on a wild pitch by Ivan Nova in the sixth, only to have the ball carom right back to catcher Austin Romine. Pedroia tried to leap over Romine but was tagged out. “The ball bounced right back to him -- tough break,’’ Pedroia said.

Then in the 13th, Pedroia dived head-first into first base and was ruled save by umpire Tim McClelland on his infield chopper to third. Replays showed the throw had beaten Pedroia, and Yankees manager Joe Girardi was ejected from the game, Girardi saying later he didn’t appreciate the way McClelland “went after” first baseman Nick Swisher.

“That was awesome,’’ Pedroia said of the win that kept the Sox a game ahead of Tampa Bay in the wild-card race with each team having three left to play. “We played hard, man, that’s what we’re going to do. A lot of people are writing us off, so we’re going to come and play our butts off.’’

Pedroia gave a big embrace and a slap on the helmet to Jacoby Ellsbury after he hit his tie-breaking, three-run home run in the 14th. When was the last time he’d given anyone such an enthusiastic hug?

“I don’t know,’’ Pedroia said. “He’s had a lot of big hits this year. Just because we’ve had a tough couple of weeks doesn’t mean we’re done. That guy’s been great all year.’’

Asked how he felt about the Sox chances, he said: “We’re on a one-game winning streak. Smile, bro. It’s all good.’’