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For a closer, he's not big on saving things

October 11, 2008|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Jonathan Papelbon isn't one for sentimentality. His dog chewed the game ball from last year's World Series-clinching victory over Colorado to shreds, and the Red Sox closer wasn't too broken up about it.

Friday night, after nailing down the final three outs of a 2-0 win over Tampa Bay in the American League Championship Series opener, Papelbon tossed the game ball into a clubhouse trash can before realizing it was a record-setting memento.

With his save, in which he struck out two of three batters, Papelbon extended his scoreless playoff streak to 20 2/3 innings, breaking Joe Niekro's major league record of 20 innings.

"I accidentally threw it away; I'm good at that," Papelbon said of the game ball. "I usually just throw it away or put it in a corner. I wasn't thinking about a major league record. I had to scurry back in and grab it out of the trash can."

In 13 career playoff appearances, Papelbon, who relies almost exclusively on a fastball that regularly hits 98 mph, has given up nine hits, struck out 18 and walked five in 20 2/3 innings.

"He's half-man, half-amazing," fellow reliever Justin Masterson said. "He hasn't walked anyone in a long time because he pounds the strike zone, and he's blessed with a great fastball."

First strike

Boston scored its first run Friday in the fifth, an inning that began with Jason Bay's walk and an excuse-me double by Mark Kotsay, who tried to check his swing on a high-and-away fastball and wound up dumping an opposite-field hit that moved Bay to third.

Rays starter James Shields jumped ahead of Jed Lowrie, whose walk-off single eliminated the Angels from the division series Monday, with two quick strikes. But Shields couldn't bury the rookie, who stroked an 0-and-2 pitch to right field for a sacrifice fly.

"This lineup, we're relentless," Boston's Dustin Pedroia said. "We're going to find a way to beat you."

Off the hook

Tampa Bay threatened in the first, an inning that unfolded almost exactly as predicted by Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, who said Daisuke Matsuzaka can "lull you to sleep" with his walks and high pitch counts, and "if we get him on the ropes early we have to really put a dagger into him."

Tampa Bay had Matsuzaka on the ropes early but forgot its dagger. The right-hander walked the bases loaded in the first, throwing 27 pitches, 12 for strikes, but the Rays didn't score.

"We had some opportunities," Tampa Bay Manager Joe Maddon said, "and we were not able to take advantage of them."


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