PHILADELPHIA — As Ryan Howard stepped on first base to finally end the game after an eventful ninth inning, Jonathan Papelbon turned toward the Red Sox dugout and wildly pumped his right fist twice.
It was not a celebration on par with dancing a jig on the Fenway Park infield clad in his underwear, but it was far more than is usually required for a game played in late May.
Papelbon gave up a run but left two runners stranded Wednesday night as the Phillies beat the Red Sox, 4-3, before 38,831 at Citizens Bank Park. It was the smallest crowd the Red Sox have drawn at the park.
It was Papelbon’s second save in as many nights against his former team and clearly it had meaning for him.
The Red Sox did not share Papelbon’s vision of making him one of the highest-paid relievers in the game. They allowed him to walk away as a free agent without making an offer and Papelbon got the contract he wanted from the Phillies.
When he pitched at Fenway Park on Tuesday for the first time since his departure, Papelbon was booed when he came out of the bullpen. He responded by setting down the Sox in order and hitting 96 miles-per-hour with his fastball for the first time all season.
It was a struggle Wednesday but ultimately produced the same goofy smile.
Papelbon came in with a two-run lead and struck out an overmatched Jackie Bradley Jr. Stephen Drew then walked on the eighth pitch he saw.
Sox manager John Farrell played his best card, sending up idled designated hitter David Ortiz as a pinch hitter. Ortiz popped to right field, chasing a low fastball.
“I was ready, man,” Ortiz said. “I was ready. You just try your best and what happens, happens. It was a good pitch, a pitcher’s pitch. Good location.”
Jonny Gomes kept the game going with a single to right field. Jacoby Ellsbury then popped a ball down the line in left field. Domonic Brown should have made the play and didn’t.
The double scored only one run, Gomes being stopped at third base despite running with two outs.
“He’s not scoring from first there,” Farrell said.
Daniel Nava, who earlier homered, swung at the first pitch he saw and tapped the ball to Howard. Papelbon allowed his first run since April 3 but picked up his 11th save.
The Red Sox have lost two straight but remain in first place as the Yankees lost to the Mets again. There’s one more against the Phillies Thursday night before a weekend series in the Bronx.
The Phillies had four solo home runs, two by Brown. Howard and Erik Kratz also connected. John Lackey (3-5) had the misfortunate of pitching at a small park on a warm night and gave up three of the homers.
“Just keep pitching, try to make pitches and hope your guys hit a few of them, too,” Lackey said.
Said Farrell: “In this ballpark every time the ball goes in the air seemingly you’re holding your breath a little bit. I thought overall John gave a solid six innings of work.”
Brown has four home runs in the first three games of the home-and-home interleague series and 10 homers overall this month.
Brown’s second home run came off Koji Uehara in the eighth inning and gave Papelbon a two-run cushion that proved important. The Sox were held to seven hits and were 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position.
Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick was 0-3 with a 10.80 ERA in four career appearances against the Sox. But he held them to two runs on four hits over six innings.
Ellsbury tripled to start the game and scored on a sacrifice fly by Pedroia. Ellsbury is 13 of his last 36; Pedroia has 12 RBIs in the last 12 games.
Nava homered to start the sixth inning. It his seventh, a new career best.
The Sox were otherwise wasteful. Pedroia was caught stealing by several feet to end the third inning with a runner on third and Mike Napoli at the plate.
Farrell said the Sox felt they could run on Kendrick and that Pedroia was going on his own. It was a rare poor decision by Pedroia.
The Sox had two on and no outs after Nava homered in the sixth and could not score. Jarrod Saltalamacchia popped to center field and Mike Carp grounded back to the mound for a double play.
They also left two on in the seventh. Ellsbury was called out on strikes by Dale Scott on a pitch that was low and away. Nava then grounded into a force.
“We created a number of opportunities once again, in the sixth, seventh, and again in the ninth inning. Men left on base. But the opportunities were there,” Farrell said.