The Red Sox continued to set the pace in the American League by going 5-1 this week, improving the club's overall record to 60-37. Figuring prominently in four of those games was Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon, who is now fifth in the AL in saves after picking up his 22nd save against the Mariners on Friday night. For his efforts out of the bullpen, Papelbon takes home Amica Pitcher of the Week honors.
One word describes Papelbon's work on the mound this week: Efficient. The righty worked four innings and struck out four hitters while surrendering only one run. Pap didn't waste his time nibbling around hitters, either. He threw a total of 47 pitches, 35 of them for strikes. His ERA, which was at 4.06 this time last week, is now down to 3.76.
It would be unfair not to mention the efforts of Josh Beckett, who is just as deserving as Papelbon for the Amica Pitcher of the Week recognition. Beckett had his best start of the season on Sunday night in Tampa Bay, pitching eight shutout innings and allowing only one hit and striking out six hitters.
Unfortunately for Beckett, Boston's hitters had their own difficulties against Rays starter Jeff Niemann, who matched Beckett by going eight shutout innings himself. When Dustin Pedroia knocked home the game's first run in the 16th inning, Papelbon came on to make sure it was the game's only run. Throwing 11 pitches, 10 of which were strikes, Pap collected his 21st save of the season in Boston's 1-0 victory, which took five hours and 44 minutes to get.
This has been a bounceback year for Papelbon, who blew eight saves in 2010 and had the worst ERA of his career at 3.90. While his ERA is still high, his blown save total is not. Papelbon has only one blown save on the season and is 2-0 with 22 saves.