Jonathan Papelbon Is Nails
After all the back-and-forth garbage throughout the off-season and Spring Training, it was easy to see after last night’s game why the Red Sox moved Jonathan Papelbon back to the bullpen. The stud closer was uber-clutch in closing out the 3-2 victory over the Rangers, preserving the win for Curt Schilling, and bailing out Joel Pineiro in the process.
Papelbon entered the one-run game with one out, and runners on the corners. It would be one thing if he had to face Nelson Cruz and Gerald Laird, but what Papelbon had to face was a completely different story. Papelbon had to get out two of the league’s finer hitters in Michael Young AND Mark Teixeira. The young closer proved himself to be a regular Hoodini, freezing Young on a heater that grazed the outside corner, which Young called a “great pitch,” and then getting Tex to pop out to end the inning.
Finally dealing with nobody on in the ninth inning, Pap over-matched bonafide major leaguers Sosa, Blalock, and Wilkerson in order to end the game. Needless to say I was ridiculously impressed by Papelbon’s goods and his ability to put together a five-out save in a pressure situation.
It’s easy to see why Boston moved Papelbon back to the closer spot — regardless of who the closer competition was (Timlin, Pineiro, et. al). Papelbon throws heat, has a dirty breaking ball, and he has the mental composure to dominate hitters late in the game, no matter the situation. It was performances like last night that make me confident in my Red Sox World Series pick, but also worry me that Francona will be tempted to overuse Jonathan who seems so adept at converting four-or-more out saves. Regardless, I won’t hesitate to say that Jonathan Papelbon probably has as big of nuts as any closer in baseball.