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.
A few minutes after replays of the Bruins and Celtics wins were played on the scoreboard, Bay doubled off the Wall to score Ortiz.
Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, last year's AL MVP, left in the top of the fourth after straining his right groin during an at-bat the prior inning. He said he expects to play Wednesday on the team's upcoming road trip, before he turned his thoughts to Papelbon.
"I'd rather be out there behind him," he said. "I was kind of nervous sitting there."
Tampa Bay is 6-4 against Boston this season.
The Red Sox broke a 1-1 tie with a pair of runs off starter Matt Garza in the fourth, giving them more than they had scored against him in his two previous starts. Jason Varitek had a two-out RBI double and scored when second baseman Iwamura pulled off Nick Green's pop in short right, letting it fall behind him. Green was cut down at second on the play.
Crawford's RBI single cut it to 3-2 in the fifth.
Bartlett's bases-loaded sacrifice fly tied it in the sixth before starter Josh Beckett escaped the jam by striking out Dioner Navarro.
Crawford stole his 11th base against Boston this year, and was successful for the 26th straight time against the Red Sox. He hasn't been caught since Varitek threw him out Sept. 17, 2003.
Red Sox reliever Hideki Okajima had to step off the mound when the crowd let out a roar after the Celtics Glen "Big Baby" Davis hit his jumper to win Game 4 of the NBA's Eastern Conference playoffs.
Beckett allowed three runs, six hits, walked three and struck out five in six innings.
Garza gave up three runs, seven hits, struck out six and walked two in seven innings.
"We played our butt of tonight, that's all I can say," Garza said. "The guys behind me played their tail off tonight. They just executed (against) us tonight and that's what happened."
Notes: The Red Sox called up highly touted RHP Daniel Bard from Triple-A Pawtucket before the game and designated LHP Javier Lopez for assignment. Bard, 1-0 with a 1.13 ERA at Pawtucket, had 29 strikeouts in 16 innings. "It's not like I'm some finished product or anything. I've got a lot to learn, and this is a good place to do it," he said. ... Maddon will receive a special resolution from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives honoring him for his 2008 success with the Rays tomorrow. ... Rays 1B Pena didn't start, but pinch-hit in the ninth. He is 3 for 22 in his career against Beckett. ... Boston RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka, on the 15-day DL with a strained shoulder, gave up four hits in four scoreless innings during a rehab start for Pawtucket.