BALTIMORE — For a second straight game, Jonathan Papelbon unexpectedly found himself in position to become Boston’s career saves leader.
Less than 24 hours earlier, Papelbon was victimized by the greatest comeback in Baltimore Orioles history. On Wednesday, after the Red Sox staged an improbable rally of their own, Papelbon got his coveted save.
Boston used a four-run ninth inning to pull even, Julio Lugo singled in the tiebreaking run in the 11th and Papelbon emphatically closed a 6-5 victory over the Orioles.
Papelbon got three outs for his 20th save this season and 133rd with the Red Sox, breaking the team record held by Bob Stanley.
“Obviously, it feels good,” Papelbon said. “When I set out to be the closer of the Boston Red Sox, there were definitely a lot of goals in sight and this was one of them. To finally get it and get it out of my head, you know, to stop thinking about it, is definitely good for me. It’s done with. Let’s move on.”
On Tuesday night, Papelbon yielded the key hit in the eighth inning of a game in which Boston’s bullpen blew a 10-1 lead before losing 11-10.
In this one, Red Sox pitchers retired the final 24 batters. Ty Wigginton hit a leadoff homer in the fourth off Josh Beckett to put the Orioles up 5-1, but that would be Baltimore’s final baserunner.
“I thought today was a great opportunity for our bullpen to come show the league what we’re really made of,” Papelbon said. “I think we answered that with flying colors.”
Daniel Bard struck out four in two innings and Ramon Ramirez (5-2) worked the 10th before Papelbon disposed of the Orioles with 18 effective pitches.
Baltimore starter Brad Bergesen gave up one run, struck out six, walked none and permitted only two runners past first base in eight innings. He was pulled after 103 pitches and with Baltimore comfortably ahead.
Then came the Boston ninth, when the Red Sox tied it against the Orioles’ best two relievers. Kevin Youkilis hit a two-run homer off Jim Johnson before George Sherrill entered and immediately struck out Jason Bay and David Ortiz. Sherrill then allowed a single and two walks to load the bases for pinch-hitter Rocco Baldelli, who grounded a single up the middle to make it 5-5.
The decision to pull Bergesen left Orioles manager Dave Trembley open for second guessing, but he said, “To expect that he’s going to go back out there in the ninth with his pitches where he was … It was the right thing to do to get him out of there.”
Bergesen deferred to the manager, saying, “I would always like to go back out there, and if I did I was going to battle. But Skip made the right decision. George and J.J., they’ve been stellar all year long, so those are the two guys you’re going to go with.”
In the 11th, Jacoby Ellsbury hit a leadoff double off Danys Baez (4-2) and scored when Lugo bounced a one-out single to left past the drawn-in infield.
“I just wanted to come through,” Lugo said. “This is not a team that is going to roll over. They got to get 27 outs, and we proved that.”
Although Bay struck out five times and went 0 for 15 in the series, the Red Sox took two of three from Baltimore for their seventh straight series win. On the heels of Tuesday’s galling defeat, winning the finale felt that much better.
“I think the best thing is we needed to move on from last night,” manager Terry Francona said. “The easiest way to move on is to win.”
Wigginton and Luke Scott homered for the Orioles, now 29-2 when leading after eight innings.
Scott hit his 15th homer on the first pitch of the second inning to go up 2-0. Boston cut the lead in the third when J.D. Drew hit a two-out single and scored on a double by Dustin Pedroia, who committed the unforgivable mistake of being thrown out at third trying to stretch the hit into a triple.
Nick Markakis hit an RBI double in the bottom half, and Wigginton homered in the fourth to give Baltimore a four-run cushion.
NOTES: Papelbon has 21 career saves against the Orioles, the most against any team. He is 21 for 22, the exception his lapse Tuesday night. … Baltimore CF Adam Jones was rested after colliding with the wall Tuesday night. Jones said he was healthy enough to play.
David Ginsburg/The Associated Press