ESPN’s number three top play of the day is Nava’s diving catch. In Red Sox top plays, it is number 1. My other top play is Papelbon’s save, one of the best performances by any closer this year. He threw 14 pitches, 11 for strikes, while using every one of his pitches, including a 97 or 98 mph fastball. Mike’s Napoli’s whiff was a work of pitching art. For his 29th save, his numbers were almost identical. I know I am skipping over the painful blown save, but let’s look at Papelbon at his best. Dan Shaughnessy recently reported that there are only two other closers with better numbers than Pap. Mariano Rivera and Christy Mathewson. I can’t solve the debate about the closers, but I do know that two pitchers like the Bard and Pap are what most teams can only dream about. Give him the contract he wants, Theo. And hold onto the Bard. Many of our one-run game losses result from a rickety pen.
After the great win last night, with Nava’s stealthy dive, two things are important. First, momentum. How many times this year have we felt the high of a great win, with the premonition of the beginning of momentum, thinking, “hey it begins here, we will now win 12 of 14 or something.” Only more games and time will tell. Secondly, Nava’s hunger, along with his workmanship grit is all over that play. Watch the replay a few more times and what comes to mind is how bad he wants to play in the bigs.
One often wonders how the huge contract gets between the ears of a player. Jayson Werth of the Phillies comes to mind. A mid-season slump may have something to do with trade talks and his free agency. It might be a romantic notion to suggest that in this game money changes the intangible desires to win and prove oneself, but look at the young talent on this team. Watch Ryan Kalish getting advice last night from J.D. Drew after catching a fly ball either of them could have grabbed and you might see what’s in the blood of a younger player. Maybe we ought to let Pap keep grinding his teeth to more saves without the big payday.