We found out tonight that J. Papelbon is not invincible. He's not going to save every game he comes into this year. He's not going to have a 0.01 ERA this season (although his ERA is still an anemic 0.30) but that's okay because he's human and a rookie I might add. Considering the fact that he blew his first save in 21 attempts, it's a nice consolation prize knowing that he came back and won the game (props to Msrs. Lowell and Ramirez). He also did it in dominant fashion, striking out the side in the 9th in the pouring rain.
Taking a step back, I'm somewhat in awe of the aura that has already enveloped Papelbon. In just a third of a season, he's become our Mo Rivera. I know I'm getting ahead of myself given Mo's impressive track record, not to mention World Series trophies, but my point is that he instills that kind of confidence. When Papelbon comes into a game, there's a collective sigh of relief from the Red Sox Nation. We ASSUME that Papelbon is going to come in and shut the door in any close game because he's done it -- and many cases with ease -- in 20 straight games.
On the flip side of that coin, what has happened to Randy Johnson? He has become the anti-dominant pitcher. To steal a line from Seinfeld, he's become bizarro Randy Johnson, giving up home runs like candy while striking out very few. Last night he coughed up six runs in four innings. I have to believe that somethings not right with the Big Unit because you don't go from being a 300 strike out/season guy to a mediocre pitcher who has trouble with the long ball almost overnight. I know the experts are saying that it's age catching up with him but I'm not buying it. He's either tipping his pitches or he's injured. I'm not an RJ fan in any way shape or form but you have to feel for the big dork. He comes to NYC to become their new pitching messiah and ends up falling short while collecting a tidy $16 million/year.
And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming... Why is that the Sox pick one pitcher every year that they just don't score runs for. Roger Clemens was the original benefactor of this dubious award. Then it was Pedro. Now it seems to be Wakefield, also a bizarro situation given his healthy run support over the last few years in Boston. My theory used to be that for guys like Clemens and Pedro, the Sox offense sort of felt like they could take the night off given the dominant pitching efforts they expected. I'm sure it didn't help that since both Rocket and Petey were aces, they (and the Red Sox offense) were usually facing off against the other teams ace. That's obviously not the case this year so it's truly hard to explain.
In spite of the quasi-lack of run support last night (thank goodness for Trot having a hot bat last night in a 4-4 effort), it was a nice win. It smelled like a potential loss after they jumped out to an early lead on Trot's three run dinger, only to see that lead dwindle in the third on Young's monster home run. You gotta love their defense (thanks Theo!) and a fairly solid bullpen. Last year, they would have lost this game but this is a different year with a different (uber) closer. Here's hoping that Papelbon can start another 20+ save streak today against the Rangers.