BOSTON — Jonathan Papelbon walked into the middle of the clubhouse and patted his right arm that was wrapped in ice. He wanted to get through his postgame session with reporters faster than he dispatched the Rays.
"Let's go," he said.
The Red Sox All-Star closer put himself in a jam, then powered his way out of it in the ninth inning to close out Boston's 4-3 win over Tampa Bay last night.
"I basically just put myself in a situation where I had to go in 'punch out' mode," Papelbon said. "It's not something I necessarily want to be in."
Akinori Iwamura walked, advanced on Papelbon's throwing error on a pickoff attempt and moved to third on Jason Bartlett's single to start the ninth. But Papelbon, using high 90s heat, got Carlos Pena, B.J. Upton and Carl Crawford to go down swinging.
"We just swung at his pitches out of the strike zone," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Jason Bay doubled home the go-ahead run in the eighth as the Red Sox took two of three from Tampa Bay, snapping a streak of six consecutive series victories by the Rays against Boston, including last fall's ALCS.
But it was Paplebon's performance that ended a victorious sports night in Boston.
"There's not a lot of guys in the league that can do that," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "That's not any easy thing to do. I don't care who you are."
Ramon Ramirez (3-0) got the final out of the eighth before Papelbon escaped a two-on, none-out mess for his eighth save.
The win capped a very successful sports night in Boston after the Bruins and Celtics both won playoff games.
David Ortiz opened the eighth with a double off the Green Monster against Brian Shouse (1-1) and advanced on reliever Dan Wheeler's wild pitch.