Pedroia rescues Red Sox
DENVER — Dustin Pedroia clapped his hands and let out a roar as he rounded first base. His shot had barely cleared the yellow line in left field, dropping down over the fence and erasing the pain of another blown save for Jonathan Papelbon. Not that it was over when Pedroia’s third home run of the night — a two-out, two-run shot — exited the park, giving the smoking second baseman his fourth extra-base hit and fifth hit overall of the night.
Papelbon still had to pitch the 10th. That seemed almost as frightening a prospect as any, with the closer having allowed three runs in the ninth Wednesday, and two more in the ninth last night, as the Rockies tied the score at 11-11. But, with the Sox trying to avoid a sweep at Coors Field, the closer managed to end a wild and messy 13-11 decision with a 1-2-3 final inning, getting Melvin Mora on a swinging strikeout to end the game 4 hours and 48 minutes after it began.
“I hit it real high,’’ Pedroia said of his third home run. “I got it on the barrel and I back-spun it. With the thin air, I was just hoping it would get in the first, second row. I didn’t even see where, I just saw the left fielder put his head down. I’m like, that’s awesome.
“I’m just happy we scored. The way we lost the last two nights, bad-hop ground ball the first night, then last night a couple home runs. We needed a win.’’
And Pedroia gave it to them, doing something that just 23 players have done since 1920, going 5 for 5 with three homers. It was the first time, the second baseman said, he had hit three home runs in one game. But, lest anyone get confused about his ability to go deep in Little League, Pedroia offered, “Oh, yeah, I hit a lot of bombs. Don’t kid yourself.’’
“That’s unbelievable,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “That’s one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. That’s [Ryne] Sandberg-esque. That’s awesome.’’
It was, as Pedroia said, a draining game that took everything out of the players — plus everyone out of the dugout, and nearly everyone out of the bullpen. Dustin Richardson, who warmed up in the first inning, was the only member of the Sox who did not play.
“Any time I’m running out of ink, that’s not a good sign,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “I’m glad we won. That’s gut-wrenching. A lot happened, a lot of good, some not so good. There’s something to be said for persistence.’’
Ah, the not-so-good.
That included Papelbon, who blew a save for the second straight night, as Coors Field turned into a house of horrors. Heading into the ninth with a two-run lead, courtesy of Pedroia’s second homer, Papelbon came on to face the Rockies. He struck out Jonathan Herrera to begin the inning. That was the best he would look.
The Rockies followed with three straight singles, the third of which was blooped into left field by Brad Hawpe. Two runners scored, two more question marks for those concerned about Papelbon’s residency in the closer’s role. The blown save marked the first time in Papelbon’s career he had blown saves on consecutive days, and the first time he had blown saves in two consecutive appearances since May 7 and 9, 2008.
“The first hitter he was good, he threw the split, it was down,” Francona said. ”Then he got a little sideways. He wasn’t driving the ball down. He was kind of pushing it up this way. Good hitters don’t need help.”
So the score was tied, 11-11, with 31 combined hits on the scoreboard and nearly two games’ worth of time on the clock. The Rockies wouldn’t get any more, although it took a stellar catch on the warning track in center field by Darnell McDonald to prevent a potential winning hit by Seth Smith.
”I’ve just got to go back to the drawing board, man,” Papelbon said. ”It’s just like anything else. The season is a heavyweight fight, man. I lost Round 3, we’ve got 12 rounds to go. I’ve got to go back to the drawing board. It’s just that simple. If I sit here and try to make things more complicated than what they are, I’m only going to hurt myself in the long run.”
With the way the score had jumping back and forth and the way the batters were circling the bases, the only thing that appeared certain was that the pitchers would see an unfortunate and large uptick in their ERAs.
“The word resilient,’’ Francona said. ”We didn’t do some things correct, but we did enough.”
The Rockies handed the Sox bullpen one of its ugliest innings this season, as they scored six runs against Manny Delcarmen, Hideki Okajima, and Ramon Ramirez in the sixth. They took the lead and were in position to sweep the Sox.
Not so fast. The Sox immediately came back with three in the seventh, on an RBI single by Adrian Beltre and a two-run double by Jason Varitek. Pedroia followed with home run No. 2, a two-run shot in the eighth. That led to one in the eighth by the Rockies, then those two in the ninth, then extra innings.
By the end, it was almost hard to recall that Daisuke Matsuzaka made his first start in two weeks. It wasn’t exactly a notable performance.
”I remember we had Richardson going in the first, then you look up a while later and he kind of kept it together,” Francona said. ”To his credit. We had a long night anyway, but we were looking at a real long night. He reeled it in, got it together, and stayed out there. He was at  after five, which was a lot, but it was a heck of a lot better than coming out after one.”
Matsuzaka had thrown 37 pitches in that first inning, and it appeared he would not be long for the game as he allowed a base runner in each of his innings. He managed to get out of a bases-loaded jam with a ground out to first base in the fourth — nearly a patented move by Matsuzaka — after an error on Scutaro at short, single, and walk had filled them with two outs.
”I think the first inning was awful, but after that I was able to dig in and battle my way through the rest of the outing,” Matsuzaka said through interpreter Masa Hoshino. ”I think I might have gone into the game just being a little bit too careful, a little bit too cautious.”
The Sox gave him the support he needed, scoring four runs in the fourth, beginning with Pedroia’s first home run, which snapped Jason Hammel’s scoreless streak at 28 1/3 innings, then continuing with a two-run double by Mike Cameron, and an RBI single by Matsuzaka. Two more runs scored in the fifth, as Beltre added a two-run shot.
But, offensively, it was all Pedroia, who became the first Sox player to hit three homers in a game since Kevin Millar on July 23, 2004.
”When you feel good, the only thing is you’ve got to get a good pitch to hit, and then hit it,” Pedroia said. ”Tonight I got good pitches to hit — and I didn’t miss them.”