Commentary

Pedroia amazes, but doesn't surprise

Three-homer performance lifts Red Sox to needed victory over Colorado

Updated: June 25, 2010, 9:42 AM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

DENVER -- Dustin Pedroia was the last player to walk up the runway to the clubhouse from the visitors dugout, a few bats cradled in his arms, uniform dirty, sweat still streaking his face. Jack McCormick, the Red Sox's traveling secretary, stopped him at the door and handed him a cell phone.

It was John W. Henry, the team's principal owner. One could only guess the purpose of the call. Was he about to offer Pedroia a new contract, tell him there'd be a new yacht awaiting him in Boston Harbor when he got home, inform him that he now owned a stake of the team?

"He just said, 'Great job,'" Pedroia said. "It was pretty short. He said it was exciting, he was happy for me, and it was a big win. It was pretty cool to talk to him."

Pedroia smiled broadly. No, he said, Henry had never called him like this before.

[+] EnlargeDustin Pedroia
AP Photo/David ZalubowskiDustin Pedroia capped his five-hit game with his third home run, a two-run shot which gave the Red Sox the lead in the 10th.

Then again, Pedroia had never gone 5-for-5 with three home runs before, the last one a two-run shot in the 10th that gave the Red Sox what manager Terry Francona called a "gut-wrenching" 13-11 win over the Colorado Rockies on Thursday night.

Pedroia became only the third Red Sox player in franchise history to have five hits and three home runs in a game. John Valentin went 5-for-5 with three home runs, all with the bases empty, on June 2, 1995. Fred Lynn was a rookie when he went 5-for-6 with three home runs and 10 RBIs on June 18, 1975.

Pedroia became the first big leaguer to accomplish the feat since Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols did it on July 20, 2004, four days after Victor Martinez, then with the Indians, went 5-for-5 with 7 RBIs. In all, 23 players have done it in the past 90 years.

Pedroia doubled in the first and led off the fourth with a home run off Rockies starter Jason Hammel. He walked in the fifth, singled in the seventh and homered in the eighth off reliever Rafael Betancourt to extend the Sox's lead to 11-8. He drove in five runs in all and scored four.

"To see something like that is pretty special, and under the circumstances, it's unbelievable," said Sox outfielder Mike Cameron, who hit four home runs in a game when he was with Seattle in 2002. "The little fella, he can play some ball."

Pedroia, who batted third in a Sox lineup missing a DH because they were playing in a National League park, has had five hits in a game before, but never three home runs. Not with the Sox. Not in the minors. Not at Arizona State. Not in high school. Not in Little League.

Wait a second: Didn't he hit any as a little tyke, back when Guy and Debbie Pedroia would leave Valley Tire in Woodland, Calif., to cart him to his games?

"I hit a ton of bombs," he said cockily. "Don't kid yourself."

No one does, not with Pedroia.

"With him," said Red Sox first-base coach Ron Johnson, "you've come to expect the unexpected."

Pedroia provided emotional rescue on a night that the Sox had leads of 6-2, 9-8 and 11-9, only to have Jonathan Papelbon blow the save for the second straight night, something he'd done only once before, this time on an opposite-field, two-run single by Brad Hawpe in the bottom of the ninth.

Pedroia reclaimed the lead in the top of the 10th on a towering fly off Rockies reliever Huston Street that just cleared the left-field fence. He didn't know if it had the distance until he spotted the telltale sign.

"I saw the left fielder drop his head," Pedroia said. "That was pretty awesome."

Coach Tim Bogar said no one has slapped his hand harder than Pedroia did as he came around third base. Kevin Youkilis exchanged forearm bashes at home plate, then smacked Pedroia in the back of the head. Then there was David Ortiz, waiting on the top step of the dugout, to make Pedroia disappear within a hug so strong, the second baseman's helmet went flying off.

"Dude, I don't even remember, really," Pedroia said afterward. "Oh man, it all happened so fast."

That may have been the only thing that did on a night in which Francona emptied his bench of position players and had one reliever, Dustin Richardson, left in the bullpen. He used 20 players. That was one fewer than Rockies manager Jim Tracy, who reluctantly had to use Street, just off the disabled list after missing the season's first 10 weeks with shoulder problems, for the second straight night.

"Any time I'm running out of ink," Francona said, "that's not a good sign.

"Whew. I'm glad we won. That's gut-wrenching. A lot happened. A lot of good. A lot not so good, but there's something to be said for persistence."

When it was over, Papelbon striking out Melvin Mora to end it, the embattled Sox closer heaved the ball far into the left-field stands. He threw it almost as far as Pedroia hit it.

"That was one of the best performances I've ever seen," Francona said. "That was Sandberg-esque."

That was a reference to Ryne Sandberg, the Cubs' Hall of Fame second baseman, who never did what Pedroia did Thursday night.

"We weren't shocked when he hit the home run," Francona said. "I think we all felt he was going to do something good."

As Pedroia was getting dressed at his locker, the clubhouse attendant packing his bag asked him if he wanted to keep the scouting report for that night's game. Pedroia shook his head. Didn't want it. Obviously didn't need it.

"Tonight I had good pitches to hit," he said, "and I didn't miss them."

Gordon Edes is ESPNBoston.com's Red Sox reporter. He has covered the Red Sox for 12 years and has reported on baseball for 25 years. Ask a question for his next mailbag here.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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