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Papelbon's supremacy not in question

Papelbon's supremacy not in question

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CLEVELAND -- Sure, Jonathan Papelbon may have looked -- gasp! -- almost human as the Indians tried to rally back in the bottom of the ninth Monday, but as he hones his new delivery, he's becoming a big-picture guy.

"The bullpen needs to just do what it's expected to do, and that's hold leads," Papelbon said. "Period."

Papelbon gave up his second run of the season against the Indians, but he clamped down after Mark DeRosa's RBI single. Papelbon changed his delivery this spring, setting his hands higher, but his results have mostly been what the Red Sox have come to expect of Papelbon -- strength and stability.

"Going into the game, I think he had a 1.1 ERA," manager Terry Francona said. "That's good, in my opinion, that's probably dominant. He gave up a run. I don't know that that's not going to happen."

For Papelbon, half of the problem his off nights are mental.

"Last night, I felt tremendously good," Papelbon said. "A lot of times, that's my worst enemy. You feel so good that you get lazy with your delivery, because you feel that good and you feel you can just muscle through it. And, obviously, you do that and your ball becomes a little more flat, you start leaving balls over the plate more."

Giving up singles to Shin-Soo Choo and Ryan Garko to lead off the ninth on Monday, Papelbon knew he had to adjust.

"With a three-run lead last night, they kind of put on the ambush train, just trying to go up there and hit first good pitch they saw," Papelbon said. "They were hacking, but I left a lot of balls over the middle of the plate due to the fact that I felt good."

So if feeling good is bad, what does that mean about feeling bad? Is that the solution?

"On days when I have had some consistent work in, I'm a little beat up, [feeling] kind of medium, that's when I am at my best, because I have to stay through my delivery," Papelbon said. "Last night, I kind of got sideways a little bit, because I was feeling so good. I got a little [over confident]."

Papelbon's new delivery, meanwhile, has opened up his breaking ball, he said. He sets his hands higher, getting more power out of his legs and cutting down on arm strain.

"Sometimes I get a little ahead of myself early on in the season, and with this new delivery, that is happening," Papelbon said. "I can't expect to be perfect every time while I am working on this new delivery. ... It just helps me drive through the ball and stay through the zone better."

As his delivery develops, Papelbon remains an anchor of what has been surging Boston's mainstay, its bullpen. Papelbon is 5-for-5 in save opportunities with a 1.93 ERA in 9 1/3 innings of work.

"Our bullpen has been the constant," Francona said. "They've given us a chance in all the games."

Pitching matchup
BOS: LHP Jon Lester (1-2, 4.88 ERA)
The left-hander worked hard in his last start, throwing 114 pitches over six innings against the Yankees on Friday. It turned out to be a quality start, with Lester scattering seven hits and two runs. He walked three and struck out seven to take a no-decision in a game the Red Sox won in 11 innings. After struggling in his first two starts, Lester has settled into a nice rhythm in his last two turns. Lester has made four starts in his career against the Indians, going 2-0 with a 4.03 ERA.

CLE: RHP Fausto Carmona (1-3, 7.36 ERA)
Against the Twins on Friday, Carmona went six-plus innings, giving up five runs -- four earned -- on eight hits and two walks, striking out seven. Heading into the series finale with the Red Sox, Carmona faces a team that has given him all kinds of problems. In all, Carmona is 1-4 in four starts against Boston, including two blown saves that went for losses from his days in the bullpen in the 2006 season. In his last start of 2008, Carmona gave up four runs on five hits and a walk in an inning of work, taking the loss against the Red Sox.

Tidbits
Right-hander Ramon Ramirez has tossed 12 1/3 scoreless innings in 10 appearances, giving him the most innings without giving up a run in the Majors. ... When Boston concludes this series, it will wrap up its only trip to Progressive Field this season. The Indians will play six games at Fenway Park.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• NESN

On radio
• WEEI 850, SBN 1150 (Español)

Up next
• Thursday: Red Sox (Josh Beckett, 2-1, 6.00) at Rays (Matt Garza, 1-2, 4.97), 7:08 p.m. ET
• Friday: Red Sox (Justin Masterson, 2-0, 2.70) at Rays (Andy Sonnanstine, 0-3, 7.78), 7:38 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Red Sox (TBD) at Rays (Jeff Niemann, 2-2, 4.43), 7:08 p.m. ET

Stephen Ellsesser is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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