But after blowing his eighth save in the ninth inning against New York on Sunday that helped the Yankees move to the verge of clinching a playoff spot, the Red Sox closer did not shy away from calling out the umpires.
"Really tough tonight," said Papelbon, who gave up the tying hit to Robinson Cano after walking Alex Rodriguez on a handful of close pitches to load the bases. "Considering the fact that not only am I pitching against the hitter, I'm pitching against the umpire. When you've got to do that against this lineup, you'll never be successful. It just won't happen."
Papelbon entered in a 3-2 game and gave up a pair of singles with one out. He glared in at home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi after a couple of pitches to Rodriguez, particularly a 1-1 fastball that appeared to have the plate and a 3-2 slider at the knees. Cano followed with the tying hit.
While the walk was troubling to Papelbon, the hits pained him even more as they were, in his mind, a result of having to throw meatier pitches to appease Cuzzi.
"When you've got to do that you're in a lose-lose situation," Papelbon said before opening up a little bit more. "Just call the game. There's 27 outs, call the game. Don't let the crowd influence you. Don't let the hitter influence you. Don't call the pitch where the catcher catches it.
"Stay focused for 27 outs and call the game."
Papelbon later said he was not blaming Cuzzi and could have pitched his way out of it. But he then went back to the difficulty of pitching to the league's best offense with an unfriendly strike zone.
"I'm not one to complain about pitches, no," he added. "I'm not one to do that, at all. But when you're pitching against the umpire and their lineup, nobody can do that. It's impossible."
Papelbon did strike out Jorge Posada and got Lance Berkman on a fly to right to preserve the tie. New York won in the 10th on a bases-loaded walk issued by Hideki Okajima.