BOSTON -- Ten pitches, a little help from a Dustin Pedroia dive to secure the final out and another save.
Jonathan Papelbon's days at the office this season combine two qualities that aren't often found together: routine and exciting. He extended his streak of converted save chances to 23 on Tuesday afternoon, when he closed out a 3-1 win over the Rays with a perfect ninth in the first game of a doubleheader.
Papelbon has 28 saves on the season, and of late, 13 has been his lucky number. In his last 13 appearances, Papelbon has gone that many innings and struck out that many batters. Just three baserunners have reached against him in that span -- all via single, none via walk.
When Papelbon traces the success, it was about this time a year ago, in the midst of a disappointing season, that he feels he figured himself out.
"I think all that started in August and September of last year," Papelbon said of an altered delivery. "I kind of realized what I can do to create life and deception, and I wasn't doing that in the early parts of the season last year. I was able to make an adjustment."
Strong as he's been, Papelbon might not be available for the nightcap, as he and manager Terry Francona said shortly after the first game they weren't sure about his status for Game 2.
Evan Drellich is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @EvanDrellich. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.