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Twists and Turns in Colorado

There were a pair of exciting games in last night’s MLB action. Seattle and Chicago produced an extra innings pitcher’s duel behind Felix Hernandez and Ted Lilly. The most exciting game in a NL park had to be this 13-11 thriller from the Red Sox and Rockies.

It certainly didn’t seem like it would be a slugfest from the early going. Daisuke Matsuzaka loaded the bases in the first and allowed two runs to score on a Brad Hawpe single, but that would be the only scoring Matsuzaka would allow in the game and the only runs to score until the 4th inning. The 2-0 lead held by the Rockies held their win expectancy above 70% for the majority of the first three innings, the first of three distinct peaks for the Rockies in the game.

The Red Sox hitters took over in the middle third of the game. Dustin Pedroia hit what would be the first of his three home runs in the game; Mike Cameron doubled; Matsuzaka managed an RBI hit; and Adrian Beltre ended the barrage in the 5th with another home run. By this point, the Red Sox led 6-2, their win expectancy topping out at 90.3% after five innings.

Of course, a lot can happen in four (plus) innings. And happen it did, with the victim being Red Sox reliever Hideki Okajima, who was brought in to clean up the bases loaded mess left by Manny Delcarmen. Okajima’s performance wasn’t much better. Todd Helton immediately brought in two runs, and then two out singles from Miguel Olivo, Ian Stewart, and Clint Barmes brought in four more runs to put the Rockies ahead 8-6. The big inning┬áput the Rockies in relative control of the game for the second time; their win expectancy at the end of the inning was 79.6%, topping out at 83.1% after the Barmes single.

The combination of Joe Beimel and Manny Corpas wasn’t enough to stop┬áBoston’s hit parade in the seventh. The left-handed Beimel allowed Pedroia and David Ortiz to reach base before Manny Corpas, in an attempt to stop the bleeding, allowed an RBI single to Beltre and then a two run double by Jason Varitek. The Sox would extend this 9-8 lead to 11-8 in the 8th, as Pedroia hit his second homer of the game, this time off Rafael Betancourt. The Red Sox once again possessed the driver’s seat, this time with a win expectancy of 89.6% after the top of the 8th. Even though Jason Giambi had a pinch hit RBI to bring the score to 11-9 in favor of the Red Sox in the home half of the inning, the Red Sox’s win expectancy was up to 91.3% entering the final frame.

Jonathan Papelbon’s struggles would continue, however, against the meat of the Rockies lineup. Papelbon allowed three straight singles to Todd Helton, Carlos Gonzalez, and Brad Hawpe, allowing two runs to score and the game to tie at 11-11. After Hawpe’s one out RBI single, the Rockies held a 64.8% win expectancy. It would climb no higher, as Papelbon worked through Seth Smith and Miguel Olivo to end the inning.

It was in the top of the tenth that Dustin Pedroia made last night his own. Already 4 for4 including two home runs, Pedroia took to the plate against Huston Street, who has been lights out in his career but was making only his second appearance of the season due to an injury. Pedroia would homer for the third time, putting the Red Sox up 13-11. The home run added another .478 to his already lofty .421 WPA. His final total of .899 ranks third among hitters in 2010, only behind Lance Berkman on June 1st and Jason Heyward on April 18th.

Papelbon would return for the 10th and retire Ian Stewart, Chris Iannetta, and Melvin Mora in order to finish the game, earning the “win.” Papelbon was the 11th of 12 relievers to enter the game; only Scott Atchieson recorded a shutdown, and Papelbon was among the four Red Sox and five Rockies to record meltdowns. As much as this game may be remembered for Dustin Pedroia’s display of power, it should also be remembered as one of the most inept displays of relief pitching possible. Still, there’s no denying the excitement of this game, as it exemplified the ups and downs that can be encountered in the game of baseball.