BOSTON -- Perhaps overshadowed a little by the dominance of Daniel Bard in the setup role, Jonathan Papelbon is also turning in a strong season, showing far more consistency than he did a year ago.
In his sixth season as Boston's closer, Papelbon is 4-0 with a 3.35 ERA. Opponents are hitting .224 against him, and the righty has converted 24 of his 25 save opportunities. In 45 2/3 innings, he has 62 strikeouts and just eight walks.
"I think he's done terrific," said manager Terry Francona. "He's had a couple of outings where he's given up some runs, and it's elevated his ERA. But he's been way more closer to the Pap we saw his first year or so. He's commanding his fastball, with some finish on it, and throwing the split. He's been terrific."
Bard has had several outings in which he's recorded more than three outs, which has allowed Papelbon to focus on the ninth inning.
"I think it's real helpful," Francona said. "Because of Bard's efficiency, it's allowed Pap to do that. You can't do that if a guy is laboring or fighting his way through innings, but Bard has been so efficient that we're able to do that, and bring him back the next day."