Same spot, better location for Papelbon

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / May 19, 2010

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NEW YORK — Jonathan Papelbon was in the same place a little more than a day later, on the mound at Yankee Stadium charged with protecting a lead in the bottom of the ninth inning.

He failed Monday night, giving up home runs to Alex Rodriguez and Marcus Thames as the Yankees scored four times to stun the Sox. But last night, Papelbon took a punch and kept his feet.

The closer allowed one run, then retired two batters with two runners on as the Red Sox escaped with a 7-6 victory.

“I was hoping all night long that I’d get a chance,’’ Papelbon said. “I just want to show my team that it’s a heavyweight title fight and you might get one good blow on me but you ain’t going to knock me out.

“I just wanted to go out there and prove it to my teammates tonight. You have to give them all the credit in the world to come back and give me another chance.’’

Rodriguez was the first hitter Papelbon had to face and he got the Yankees slugger to ground to shortstop, which went right under the glove of Marco Scutaro, who was charged with his second error of the game.

Rodriguez stole second and scored on a double down the left-field line by Robinson Cano.

A sacrifice bunt by Francisco Cervelli moved Cano to third. Papelbon then walked Thames.

Rookie Juan Miranda, playing his fifth game of the season, hit a hard shot to Papelbon’s left. He speared the ball, bounced on the balls of his feet to hold Cano at third, and threw Miranda out at first.

“It’s an instinct play, it just boils down to instinct,’’ Papelbon said.

Dustin Pedroia was wondering for a few anxious seconds what Papelbon was going to do.

“I was worried he was going to throw it to the backstop,’’ he said with a laugh. “But give Pap credit, he threw the ball well tonight. He had good stuff.’’

Papelbon then finished off his 10th save by striking out Randy Winn on a 3-and-2 pitch. Winn fouled off two two-strike pitches before swinging through a fastball. Despite throwing 28 pitches, Papelbon hit 94 miles per hour with his last pitch.

Papelbon stuck with the fastball that deserted him the previous night. The difference was location.

“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 has life on it.’’

How important was this game to the Red Sox?

“Well, I think that for us as a team, more importantly our coaching staff, and our front office and our fans, take a deep breath and breathe,’’ Papelbon said. “You can feel the tension around here when we lose to [the Yankees].’’

Peter Abraham can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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