With a strikeout of Evan Longoria, the closer preserved a 4-3 Red Sox win in a pennant race with the Rays and notched his 30th save. He is the only pitcher to reach the 30-save mark in his first six full Major League seasons.
Manager Terry Francona didn't know Papelbon had reached No. 30 until a reporter told him on Saturday, but he did reflect on how far the Sox closer has come.
"He's always been good, but he set the bar so high his first couple years, and then it wasn't quite the same," Francona said. "He came back this year with a vengeance. I mean he's been good, and he's been consistent, and he's worked hard. He's carefree, but he's a good kid. Everybody's been around him, he means well. When you give him the ball, he's got one thing, he wants to beat the other team."
Papelbon had last recorded a save on Aug. 18, and hadn't had a save opportunity since, a career-long 28-game drought. The Red Sox themselves hadn't gone 28 games without a save since 2004.
Papelbon made six appearances with a no-decision in the time leading up to Friday, and the three most recent outings came in losses.
No matter the situation, Palebon's been dominant: the 22-innings scoreless streak he entered Saturday with was the Major League's longest active streak and matched his career-best run from 2006.
Since the middle of May, Papelbon has converted his last 25 save chances, the longest such stretch of his career and the second longest in the American League this season.