Red Sox keys: Jonathan Papelbon

October 01, 2008 - 6:09 pm

September was the worst month of Jonathan Papelbon's career. The Red Sox closer gave up seven runs in 11.1 innings, suffering a 5.56 ERA that was the worst of his career while getting tagged by opposing hitters for a .347 average, also marking the worst mark for a single month of his big-league career.  He gave up two or more runs in three of his outings in September, something he had done just 10 times in nearly 200 prior outings. The Sox expressed little concern, citing various factors--the poor weather in his three-run yield on Sunday, his work on three straight nights earlier in the month--and remained resolute that nothing was wrong with Papelbon. 

"He'€™s fine. His velocity is fine," manager Terry Francona said before the game. "His arm is good. He'€™s healthy. We'€™ll lean on him. To get where we want to go, we'€™ll lean on him."

That reliance is understandable. Papelbon has thrown 14.2 scoreless innings in the playoffs, including 10.1 a year ago. He and Josh Beckett were the two cornerstones upon which the Sox built the foundation for their title run in 2007. Now, of course, Papelbon's concern seemed something of a September puzzle, while Beckett faces questions of his own in the aftermath of an oblique strain. 

Now that we have arrived in October, Papelbon's ability to turn the page on his struggles of last month will play a significant role in his team's fortunes.

"I imagine it will be hard to have a successful team without a guy at the end that anchors it," said Francona.