"He's fine, [but] he's not going to pitch tonight," Francona said before the game. "That's just the way it is. I don't think that's any big secret. You guys can run over and tell the Yankees."
Not only was Papelbon unavailable, but the same went for Hideki Okajima, who had worked the last three days.
Without their top two relievers, the Red Sox still found a way to fend off the Yankees by a score of 8-5.
Unheralded relievers like David Aardsma (two shutout innings) and Javier Lopez (1 1/3 innings, no hits, no baserunners) got the job done. Manny Delcarmen finished it by recording the final two outs.
As for what Papelbon did on Saturday, Francona was still marveling at his closer's focus.
"He had that gameface," said Francona. "Every time I saw him [during the delay], he was fine. I kept waiting for him to kind of let his guard down and then we'd pull the plug, but he didn't want to do it. The medical staff was there the whole time and they were like, 'Hey, this is how we feel,' and everybody was kind of on the same page with it."
Once the at-bat actually took place, the decision of the medical staff and, ultimately, Francona, was justified.
"Well, watching him pitch was actually pretty exciting," Francona said. "His stuff was phenomenal. You saw, Alex was ready for the first pitch, and I think he threw it 95 and he got a foul back, and if it's 92, Alex probably leans all over it. I think Pap had like a two-hour and a 10-minute focus on that at-bat. It was unbelievable. I don't know how he did it, but I'm glad he did it."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.