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Yeah, Jonathan Papelbon broke a major league record the other night. Yeah, he looked better than we’ve seen him in a long time after striking out the side, hitting 97 miles per hour in the ninth inning against the Angels. And he deserves a congratulations for becoming the first player in baseball history to record at least 30 saves in each of his first five seasons.
However, although he is proud of a season in which he was able to reach 30 saves while still setting a personal record for blown saves, even he acknowledges that breaking the record doesn’t get him off the hook for his shaky season.
“It’s been tough. I’ve had to be able to withstand a lot,” Papelbon said about his season so far, according to the Boston Herald. “I’ve blown more saves than I have in any other season, but I’ve also proved to myself that no matter what is presented to me, and what situation I put myself in, I’ve always been able to come back and throw some punches back at them.”
At least he has some confidence, which is a good sign for everyone.
At this point in the season, Jonathan Papelbon has six blown saves, which equals six games the Red Sox could have potentially won.
Also, at this point in the season, the Red Sox are currently 6.5 games out of first place in the American League East.
Not to blame the underachieving Red Sox season on Jonathan Papelbon or take away any credit for his recent milestone, but his back-and-forth season has Sox fans wondering why they can’t always expect to see that 97 to 98 mile per hour, dominant pitcher we saw on Tuesday night.
The rest of the bullpen hasn’t made it any easier for the guy either, as failures from Ramon Ramirez and Hideki Okajima have put more pressure on him. After watching the rest of the bullpen disappoint so often that management is forced to put in Scott Achison for relief on a regular basis, Sox fans are putting all of their bullpen eggs in Papelbon’s basket. It’s gotten to the point where each blown save feels like three blown saves for fans who look forward to a night in which they can watch the Red Sox last dominant pitcher. As a result, the typically brutal Boston sports media has already begun buzzing about moving a relatively unproven Daniel Bard into a spot held by a 30-save closer.
So maybe Sox fans expect a little bit too much from their saver, and maybe they are justified in asking for a little bit more.
But something’s definitely wrong. All we, as fans, can do is hope Tuesday night’s record breaking save pushes him over the hill to reach 30 saves, hopefully to gain some momentum during a late playoff push that needs a reliable closer.
At least we can take some reserve in the fact that he sees it that way too.
“I think tonight, with the year I’m having, it’s a huge boost for me. Not only (mentally), but physically, everything along the line. It’s a mental grind,” he said after getting his 30th save.
“There’s different challenges as a closer that are presented to you more than any other position. For me to be able to get back on that horse on those days that you get beat, and to be consistent, to not get in those ruts and lose all your confidence, to me that’s huge.”