We watched Jonathan Papelbon close games for us for the better part of a decade in Boston. Better than any other team, the Red Sox know that it's difficult to get the big righty to blow a save opportunity. I certainly wouldn't go as far as saying that Paps is as bullet-proof as the great Mariano Rivera, but when you see him warming up in the opposing bullpen, it's a good bet that you won't be coming out of the game on top.
Tonight was no different (though the Sox kept things interesting), as the Phillies handed a 4-2 lead to Papelbon in the top of the ninth inning, and Paps delivered the save, despite walking Stephen Drew and opening the floodgates just a bit. David Ortiz pinch hit with one out and Drew on first, and flew out to right field before Jonny Gomes hit a single to put the tying run on base. Ellsbury then knocked a double down the left field line, scoring Drew and bringing Nava to the plate with the tying run just ninety feet away. Sadly for the Sox, and luckily for Papelbon, Nava grounded out to first base to end the inning and the game.
Hindsight being 20/20, an argument could certainly be made that letting Papelbon walk was one of the larger misteps made by Sox brass in recent years. Boston hasn't had a reliable (and reliably healthy) closer since we said goodbye to Papelbon, and in fact we've spent more money on the combined salaries of attempted replacements than Paps has made in two years in Philadelphia.
But pitchers' injuries are notoriously difficult to predict and prevent - especially when the pitcher in question, like Papelbon, relies heavily on velocity to make his pitches successful - and it's still very possible that the Phillies will turn out to have made an imprudent investment. If Paps has an unfortunate injury, the Red Sox look like geniuses for letting him walk and sparing themselves an expensive long term commitment. Obviously I wish nothing but the best for Paps going forward, with the exception of hoping for many blown saves against the Red Sox.