Jonathan Papelbon described it as playing with his brothers in the backyard. That’s the feeling he got retiring the Red Sox in order in the ninth inning to preserve Cliff Lee’s 3-1 win over the Red Sox at Fenway.
“I loved it,” Papelbon said after securing his 10th save. “I loved the fact that I had to self-talk ‘Cinco’ (Papelbon’s Cinco-Ocho alter-ego) there. His ego was getting in the way little bit there. Went inside with Ortiz (on a long foul ball to right) one too many times maybe. But I mean that was his ego getting in the way. It’s what I have to deal with. It’s how it is man.”
“I would say it was more fun than strange, like playing against your brother in the backyard. Those guys are some of my best friends in the world. But at the same time it was fun. They’ve got a really good lineup and so I had to stay focused on task at hand. I knew at a given moment game could be tied up,” he said.
Papelbon received mostly boos as he took the mound. The Red Sox never made Papelbon an offer two years ago, but fans still booed his presence on the field.
“I wasn’t really wasn’t thinking about it,” Papelbon said about making his first appearance back at Fenway. “I was just approaching it like any other game. Whether it was the Red Sox or Marlins or anything else. Just prepare to get ready to pitch in a big league ballgame.”
With Lee breezing along it was touch and go as to whether Papelbon would even appear.
“I’ve never been a closer who felt like I deserved to be in there. I always trust the pitching coach and manager to make that decision. Cliff was throwing the ball well and I’m sure Cliff wanted to go back out there as well. That’s just the way we go about it. At the same time, we won the ballgame and that’s all that matters.”
Papelbon said he didn’t mind the boos. He felt it was a sign of respect.
“Felt like the first time I got booed at Yankee stadium I felt like I had made it. I’ve always enjoyed this city and pitching off the mound here. It felt like old times with all the visuals you get. Old times but in a different uniform,” Papelbon said.
Said Ortiz: “I was trying not to look at his face, man. I tried hard — hard! But he’s looking good, man. Looks like he’s having a good year, and that’s Pap, man.”
Ortiz thought he had gone deep against him.
“Oh, yeah [I thought I had him]. He got lucky this time,” Ortiz said. “He’s always been good, man. When it comes down to closing games, Pap has been one of the best beside Mariano [Rivera] and those guys. I always saw that in him. He closed games for a long time for us. He was the guy.”
Dustin Pedroia, who grounded out to third against Papelbon, said the Phillies closer will always be one of his dear friends.
“It was different,” Pedroia said. “Pap’s always going to be family to me. We’ve been through a lot together. He did great things for us here. It was a little different. I hope he does bad the next couple games but he saves every game for the rest of his life.”
“My at-bat against Pa, he located all three pitches so those guys know what they’re doing. He works. He’s smart. He puts in the time. Tonight he was 96 or whatever he was. He knows how to pitch. He watches hitters. He watches the game. I know everyone thinks he’s insane, but he’s a pretty intelligent pitcher and there’s a reason why he’s been so good,” Pedroia said.