Jonathan Papelbon recorded his 30th save of the season Wednesday night. It was the fifth straight season since entering the league in which he's done so, setting a record that not even Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman or the Eric Gagne of old can claim. But it was special for more than just that reason.
Of Papelbon's 30 saves this year, 16 have been perfect ninth innings. But until last night, none of those perfect innings had been on three consecutive strikeouts. With his fastball rising to 97 and his splitter torching the Fenway radar gun at 92, he was as the box score made him seem: untouchable.
Since the All-Star break, the Red Sox are 12-1 in games where Papelbon factors in the decision (they're 14-2 in games in which he appears). After a mind-blowing blown save against Toronto last week, it seems like Cinco Ocho has quickly returned to midseason form and, if the Red Sox have any hope of catching the Rays or Yankees, they'll need him to remain that way down the stretch.
Of Papelbon's work, his battery-mate Victor Martinez said, "He [had] the invisible ball tonight. That's why he was so effective,"
To a batter, a 92-MPH splitter probably isn't invisible. Impossible is more like it.