The Angels bullpen, despite its relative lack of playoff experience compared to Bostonâ€™s was just as dominant as its starters and out-performed Bostonâ€™s. Once forgotten veteran reliever Darren Oliver and the younger Kevin Jepsen were both outstanding for the Angels, with Oliver in particular pitching 2.1 scoreless innings in the three games he appeared in while earning a win and a hold to boot. Closer Brian Fuentes was nearly untouchable in his 2 1/3 innings, earning two saves, no hits, and one walk in his two save opportunities.
Shipping Papelbon Out of Boston? Not so Fast
Papelbon, who was 38 for 41 in save opportunities in 2009â€™s regular season, had his worst career outing â€“ postseason or regular â€“ Sunday, and heâ€™ll be losing sleep over it for a long time. It happens to the best of them. Remember that all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman (591 saves) cost his former team San Diego a postseason berth by blowing saves in two of the last three 2007 regular season games, which forced a one-game playoff between San Diego and Colorado that Colorado won. San Diego forgave him.
Mariano Rivera is truly in a class by himself but remember he too blew saves that gave the 2001 World Series to Arizona and the 2004 AL championship to Boston. Yankees fans, looking at the four World Series rings he earned before then, forgave him as well.
Pap too should be given a break by Boston fans, as he has been one of the best closers in the game over the last four years, posting a 1.84 ERA for his career, over 150 saves and a 1.00 ERA in the postseason in 27 innings. Heâ€™s been pivotal and nearly flawless in Bostonâ€™s last three postseasons, including its championship run in 2007.
In fact, from the 2005 postseason through Game 2 of the 2009 ALDS he impressively held opponents scoreless in 26 career innings. Only on Sunday in inning 27 did that Orel Hershiser-esque streak (for a closer) come to an end via the bats of Bobby Abreu, Vladimir Guerrero and other Angels.
Papelbon will continue as Sox closer for at least the next two full years, depending on whether or not contract extension talks succeed in the off-season since he is not a free agent until after the 2011 season. If they donâ€™t, heâ€™ll be happy to collect millions in arbitration cases over the next couple of years like he did for 2009 when he got over $6 million, a record for a first time eligible pitcher. Until then, ignore the nonsensical predictions that Pap will be a Yankee in 2010, that Bard will close next year and instead stay used to seeing Pap close games in Boston for the foreseeable future. After 2011, all bets are off.