Jonathan Papelbon wasn't looking over his shoulder in the ninth inning last night, even as No. 83 in your program, Eric Gagne, began throwing in the Red Sox bullpen.
Papelbon, the once and future closer, was too busy recording his 24th save in a 5-4 win over the Baltimore Orioles. Gagne, it turns out, was merely getting some exercise.
"Just a little touch-and-feel session," Gagne said. "I hadn't thrown in five or six days."
Actually, Gagne hadn't thrown in a game since July 24 for Texas. And although he will have to wait for his debut in a Sox uniform, he got his first taste of what it's like to play here when a sellout crowd of 36,649 gave him a standing ovation as he jogged out to the bullpen in the middle of the fifth.
Gagne was in the vortex of countless standing O's when he was running off a record 84 straight saves for the Dodgers. But he acknowledged this was one of the sweetest he's ever gotten while entering, not emerging from, the bullpen.
"Not surprised," he said. "I got more calls from friends in Montreal after the trade than I did when I won the Cy Young Award [in 2003]."
Neither was he surprised to see what Papelbon did in dispatching the Orioles in a 1-2-3 ninth, striking out the last two batters he faced, Aubrey Huff and Brian Roberts.
"We hadn't met before," Gagne said, "but I usually watch all the closers. He's amazing. He's lights out."
Papelbon, who had blown his previous save opportunity Saturday against the Devil Rays, was still stoked sitting on the sofa in the clubhouse after the game, his face pointing toward the television but his eyes unfocused. He didn't avail himself of the opportunity to discuss whether he wanted to make a positive first impression on Gagne; he didn't have to.
But before the game, he had some advice for Gagne. Not about adapting to the unfamiliar role of setup man, but about opening negotiations with Curt Schilling regarding ownership of the No. 38, which Gagne has worn his entire career but in Boston is worn on Schilling's back and on his web domain.
"Maybe he could buy him a watch," Papelbon said. "But with Schilling, he might have to buy him a Maserati or something."
Gagne, who just instructed equipment man Joe Cochran to reverse his number, laughed when Papelbon's suggestion was relayed. "Maserati? That's expensive," he said. "I think I'll just look at myself in the mirror.
"I'll never ask Schilling for anything. That's Curt Schilling."
With new Celtics acquisition Kevin Garnett, who was given Nomar Garciaparra's old No. 5 to wear when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch, wildly cheering from a private box, the Sox rallied from a 3-1 deficit with four runs in the seventh against a bullpen accustomed to springing such leaks.
The Sox, who had left eight men on base in the first six innings against Orioles starter Steve Trachsel, letting him off the hook despite five walks, batted around in the seventh, which began with reliever Paul Shuey walking Julio Lugo and giving up a single to Dustin Pedroia, his third hit of the night. David Ortiz followed with a double off the left-center-field wall off lefthanded reliever John Parrish, driving in Lugo, and Parrish stuck around long enough to issue an intentional walk to Manny Ramírez.
Chad Bradford, the submariner, entered, and after fouling off four Frisbees, Youkilis finally launched a ball that dropped into right-center field for a double that scored two runs.
"It's been frustrating, I've been hitting a lot of balls right at people," Youkilis said. "I was excited to get a ball down for once. I was going nuts."
Jason Varitek ultimately followed with an RBI single for a fifth run, which proved decisive when Hideki Okajima gave up a home run to Miguel Tejada in the eighth.
The win went to Javier Lopez, who threw two pitches to record the last out in the seventh. Julian Tavarez, who was restored provisionally to the starting rotation for the first time since July 18 after Kason Gabbard was dealt for Gagne, survived a solo home run by Nick Markakis in the first and some sloppiness by Ramírez in the second to hold the Orioles to three runs in five innings.
Tavarez said he's given it some thought, and couldn't come up with anybody else who can bounce back and forth from the bullpen with such ease.
"I told [manager Terry] Francona, 'Just tell me 30 minutes ahead of time, that's all I need,' " Tavarez said. "A little Bengay, some coffee, some Red Bull, I'm ready to go."
Gordon Edes can be reached at email@example.com.