Saturday, October 4, 2008

Asked and answered: Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox closer

Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon allowed an inherited runner to score in the eighth inning Friday but earned the win when J.D. Drew hit a two-run home run in the top of the ninth. Since that run was charged to Justin Masterson, who allowed the base-runner, Papelbon now has not allowed a run in 17 2/3 career postseason innings, second on the all-time list of scoreless postseason innings pitched behind Joe Niekro (20).

Is it surprising that things have gone so well so far?
"Not at all. I knew they'd have a very powerful lineup and a very good pitching staff, but I also knew, at the same time, we have a very good postseason team. What I mean by that is that we match up well with our three starting pitchers, and our bullpen matches up well in the postseason with anybody, I think. You have two different types of teams -- you have a team that can cruise through a season and put up a lot of wins, and then you have a team that, when you put them in the postseason, can match up good against anybody. That's the way we're built right now. If we have a chance to line up our pitching and get our bullpen a little bit of rest, I think we can match up good against anybody."

Last year, do you think you had a regular-season team or a playoff team?
"Last year was very similar to this year's team in that if we can get our rest in our bullpen, which we were able to do, we just match up good."

Normally, Josh Beckett would set the tone at the start of the series; now, he's the guy who can go in for the kill. What's that like for this team's confidence?
"Not having him for Game 1 has really allowed guys like (Jon) Lester and Dice-K to step up and be that guy for us. That's the way it's been all year. No matter who or where it's been, it hasn't been the same guy for us all year. Everybody has contributed in this clubhouse, whether it's Jason Bay and J.D. Drew here of late or David (Ortiz) in the middle of the season or our bullpen early in the season. It's been a huge contribution from everybody in this clubhouse. It's not just one or two guys every night."

Now that it is Josh, though, given the position you're in, how does that feel?
"No, no, I guarantee everybody in this clubhouse wouldn't want anybody out there but Beckett. That's the way we feel. I think we've got to keep applying that pressure, and Josh is the perfect guy to do that. He's the perfect guy to go out there and keep that pressure applied to them. Just as easy as we went over there and took two games, they have a ballclub where they could come here and do the same thing. If we don't apply pressure, that could easily happen. We have to be very cautious of that."

Is it hard not to get ahead of yourselves?
"It is, but I think all of us in this clubhouse understand that this is the playoffs and we still have a big job ahead of us. In the playoffs, anything can happen."

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