Papelbon, it turns out, was thinking right along with Holliday in the top of the eighth inning on Thursday night. With a quick move and a strike to first baseman Kevin Youkilis, Papelbon picked off Holliday to end the inning.
Todd Helton, representing the Rockies' potential go-ahead run at the plate, didn't get a chance to take a swing at the Boston closer, to the delight of the roaring Fenway faithful.
Papelbon finished with a flourish, nailing down a 2-1, Game 2 triumph that sends Holliday and Co. home to Denver two losses away from a long, less-than-satisfying winter holiday.
"I was trying to go," Holliday said of his plan to steal second, where Helton could deliver the tying run with a single. "He's slow to the plate from the stretch. There's not a great chance of hitting a double or home run off him; he's a great pitcher. So I was trying to get in scoring position.
"He was thinking along the same lines I was. I didn't think he'd throw over. You'd think he wouldn't be thinking about a big guy [stealing a base].
"I wanted to cry."
Holliday was quick to make it clear that he was only joking.
"Nah, it's part of the game," he said.
The National League champs will get that opportunity starting Saturday night with Game 3 of the best-of-seven series at Coors Field.
Holliday's first-inning single off Curt Schilling led to Willy Taveras' run, the leadoff man having been hit by a Schilling pitch. Helton cashed him in with an infield out, but Holliday was left at third.
That was the sum total of the Rockies' attack. Holliday led off the fourth with a single but moved no farther. He singled with one out in the sixth, making him 3-for-3 against Schilling, but was left at third.
Then came the eighth. Papelbon got ahead in the count with two fastballs, but Holliday sent him sprawling with a bullet through the box for his fourth hit. Papelbon's quick, decisive move erased the final Colorado baserunner.
"Our pitchers pitched well," Holliday said. "We're frustrated we were not able to score more than one run. We just couldn't scratch out the three runs we needed.
"They defended their home field. Now we have to defend ours."