The Red Sox got away with one in Minnesota today; somewhere around the bottom of the seventh it started looking exactly like Curt's last start to me, a solid effort that would probably end up a ND. But Okie continues to be an iron man, and though he gave up his second earned run of the season, he preserved the lead.
When Papelbon came on in the 9th, all activity at my parents' house ceased. We gathered around the TV and my dad and I almost immediately began to bicker about his velocity and location. My dad doesn't understand why Papelbon doesn't develop a changeup, but nonetheless thinks he's trying to find a groove somewhere below throwing 96 all the time. I, on the other hand, am still just irrationally worried. It made for some lively conversation.
An encouraging sign was that he finally got a swinging strikeout, his first K in three appearances, and for some reason I consider the swinging part important as well. It's just his style, I guess. He thought he had strike three on the same hitter, Jason Bartlett, a few pitches before the final 95-mph coup de grace, and went into his post-kill stalk around the mound a little too early. D'oh. After he finally got the news on that pitch, though, his entire body just said, "Eff this." (This is what makes me so riveted by Papelbon--his body language makes it easy to get caught up in the moment with him, to sense his anger or excitement.)
After that, it took two more pitches to sit Bartlett down, and his face when Bartlett's final swing came up empty was one of the most priceless things I've seen in baseball this year. A mixture of relief and excitement and pure Papelbonian rage. Eyes snapping, jaw working, rearranging his blousy jersey and drawing in deep, cleansing breaths.
The rest of the inning was in the hands of his fielders rather than influenced by his high heat, however, as Alex Cora continued to justify Remy's man-crush with a smooth putout at first, and the final out of the game fell into the glove of Mike Lowell. Fist pump, and let's get the hell out of Minnesota, 'cause I can't help feeling like we're making off with a win just in the nick of time. The Twins are a tough team this year.
This does not, however, mean I feel we are in any way in need of the overpriced, abbreviated services of an aging Roger Clemens. $28 million for a 6-inning pitcher when the middle relief is already in tatters? Not good. It's like the Yankees are approaching spending right now the way Papelbon does bets.