The first came in the third game of the year when he surrendered a game-winning home run to center fielder Curtis Granderson. The other came last month in the Bronx when he surrendered a pair of ninth inning, two-run home runs to third baseman Alex Rodriguez and right fielder Marcus Thames that turned what would have been a 9-7 Red Sox victory into a bitter 11-7 defeat.
Some members of Red Sox Nation have used the two outings as a basis for claims that Pappy has lost his mojo, and suggesting the front office should unload their enigmatic right-hander. After all, fireballer Daniel Bard is the organization’s closer-in-waiting, isn’t he?
The truth of the matter is that Papelbon had made a total of 28 appearances prior to Wednesday’s game, allowing an earned run in only five of those outings (opponents scored unearned runs off him in two other games). He had recorded 16 saves and had only one blown save (the May ballgame against the Yankees). Aside from the two outings against the Yankees, he had allowed three earned runs in his 26 other appearances (27.1 IP) for an ERA of just under 1.00 in those other contests.
So what are we to make of his back-to-back implosions in Denver this week?
In his entire career as a reliever, he had allowed two home runs in an outing only once—the May 17 game against New York. It was the same night he allowed the only walk-off home run of his career.
On Wednesday night, he added to each of those totals by surrendering two home runs, the second of which was a walk-off by Jason Giambi. And let’s be honest folks, he came darned close to allowing another walk-off in last night’s contest after surrendering a game-tying, two-run single to right fielder Brad Hawpe. He was taken to the deepest part of the ballpark by left fielder Seth Smith, whose fly ball was caught by center fielder Darnell McDonald with his back against the wall.
He has lost four games and is sporting a 3.98 ERA as we eat breakfast this morning. So it seems fair to ask: Is there something wrong with Pappy?
Thanks to Dustin Pedroia, Pappy’s second meltdown in as many nights did not result in an lose for his team. The Red Sox diminutive second baseman went five-for-five and belted three home runs in the game, including a two-run shot off one-time closer Huston Street in the tenth that delivered a much-needed 13-11 victory. He knocked in five runs, scored four times, and reached base a sixth time via a walk.
The win averted a three-game sweep at the hands of the Rockies.
It was the first three-homer game of Pedroia’s life.
Afterwards, Pedroia said, “I’ve been feeling good at the plate lately, been seeing the ball good, hitting the ball all over the place. When you feel good, the only thing is you’ve got to get a good pitch to hit. Tonight, I got good pitches to hit and I didn’t miss them.”
The teams combined for 24 runs on 33 hits, using a total of 14 pitchers in a game that lasted four hours and 48 minutes.
The Sox got off to a bad start in this one as Daisuke Matsuzaka, activated from the DL earlier in the day, had trouble finding the plate and allowed two runs before retiring a batter. But Dice-K regained his composure and retired three straight batters with two runs in and the bases loaded in the first to escape further damage. He settled down thereafter and kept the Rockies off the scoreboard as his teammates rallied to take a 6-2 lead behind Pedroia and Adrian Beltre, who had three hits, including his 11th home run, and drove in three runs.
But once Matsuzaka was pulled from the game, the bullpen couldn’t make the lead hold up as the Rockies rallied for six runs in the sixth to reclaim an 8-6 lead. Third baseman Ian Stewart and first baseman Todd Helton each had a two-run single in the inning.
Colorado’s bullpen didn’t fare much better, giving the lead right back in a three-run seventh. Jason Varitek had the big blow with a two-run double off Manny Corpas. Pedroia added a two-run homer off righty Rafael Betancourt in the eighth to give the Sox an 11-8 lead. But the combination of Scott Atchison and Bard gave one back in the eighth inning, and Pappy surrendered the lead in the ninth, thus setting the stage for Pedroia's heroics.