"I always thought that I was going to be able to get out of it," Papelbon said. "I never really had a doubt. I truly didn't."
Ninth innings have rarely been smooth affairs for Papelbon this season, although he has converted 15 of his 17 save opportunities. He has only struck out 18 of the 94 batters he's faced this year, but he's allowed 24 hits in 22 2/3 innings this season.
"I think my motto has always been, 'Bend but don't break,'" he said.
That motto could be applied to the Nationals' team as a whole Sunday afternoon, especially after the Reds jumped out to a 5-0 advantage. Washington roared back for 10 unanswered runs, powered by a strong effort from the middle of their order.
It began in the fourth inning when Daniel Murphy followed Bryce Harper's one-out single with a two-run home run, then Wilson Ramos hammered a solo homer of his own. Harper, Murphy and Ramos -- the Nationals' 3-4-5 hitters -- combined to go 9-for-15 at the plate with two home runs, five RBIs and seven runs scored. Harper collected three hits for the first time since April 15, Murphy responded after going hitless in two consecutive games for the first time all season and Ramos continued his tear offensively.
"Boy that was an exciting game," manager Dusty Baker said. "We had some guys that had good games, it was sort of a tale of three games all in one. They jumped us, we jumped them back and then we held on at the end when we were in trouble."
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.