Papelbon earns redemption in Bronx
Closer picks up save with both arm, glove in comeback
NEW YORK -- When Jonathan Papelbon closes a game, his right arm usually draws all the attention. But in Tuesday's 7-6 win over the Yankees, his gloved left hand made the biggest difference.
For the second successive night, Papelbon entered the game with a two-run ninth-inning lead after his teammates had engineered a five-run comeback. On Monday, he allowed a pair of two-run homers -- one that tied the game and another that lost it.
Tuesday's outing turned out better. Papelbon escaped a ninth-inning jam by the skin of his teeth, helping himself with a nifty stab of a ball that otherwise would have been a game-tying single.
With one run already in, the Yankees had men on first and third. Pinch-runner Ramiro Pena took off for second base right before Juan Miranda hit a sharp ball up the middle. Papelbon stabbed the one-hopper and checked Robinson Cano at third before gathering himself and throwing to first for the second out of the inning. The closer then won an eight-pitch battle and sealed the game with a strikeout of Randy Winn.
"I had to slow it down a little bit," Papelbon said. "I had to know what the situation was. What am I going to do if the ball gets hit back to me? All those things come into play.
"I think that it's just kind of an instinct play."
"There was a lot that happened," manager Terry Francona said. "From Pap fielding that ball, looking around like John Belushi, as hard as we came back, to win it, and I know it was tough to win it, it was a heck of a lot better than losing."
Papelbon's stab prevented a tie game and, with Pena running, may have kept the potential winning run off third base.
"I thought he was going to throw it to the backstop," second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "I was nervous. I'm glad he threw it to first instead of right field."
For most of the game, Papelbon didn't figure to get a chance at immediate redemption for Monday's loss. The Yankees jumped out to a 5-0 lead and carried a 5-1 advantage into the eighth. But the Red Sox tied the game with four in the eighth off Joba Chamberlain and gave Papelbon a save opportunity by scoring two in the ninth off Mariano Rivera.
"I was hoping all night long that I would get a chance," Papbelbon said. "It's just the way I wanted to go out there and prove that. I just wanted to show my team it's a heavyweight title fight. They may get one good blow in, but they're not going to knock me out. You got to give them all the credit in the world, to come back and give me another chance to help this team win."
Papelbon's ninth got off to a rocky start, though he was only partly to blame. He induced a ground ball from Alex Rodriguez -- who hit the game-tying homer Monday -- but shortstop Marco Scutaro let it slide under his glove for his second error of the game. Cano then hit a double down the left-field line to make the score 7-6. After a sacrifice bunt by Franciso Cervelli moved Cano to third, Papelbon walked Marcus Thames -- who had the game-winner Monday -- to set up the play on Miranda's ball.
Papelbon said he had better stuff during Tuesday's 28-pitch inning. He threw 15 strikes and 13 balls.
"I had location on my fastball, and I had life on it tonight," Papelbon said. "For me, that makes all the difference in the world. It's not whether I'm mixing up my pitches or not, it's whether my No. 1 is located and it's got life on it. When my No. 1 isn't located and it's flat, you see the differences."
Although the inning appeared to turn on his defensive play, Papelbon said he was never concerned.
"I thought I had control the whole time," he said. "I'm always out there thinking that as long I got the ball, I'm in a good position."
Thomas Boorstein is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.