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Jonathan Papelbon walks in winning run, chalks it all up to bad luck

Apr 3, 2014, 1:04 AM EDT

papelbon ap AP

Jonathan Papelbon, the game’s highest paid reliever, gave up three runs on four hits and two walks to blow a 3-1 lead and take a loss against the Rangers on Wednesday. But at least he was willing to shoulder the blame for it.

Well, no, that’s really not what happened at all.

“The whole inning was kind of just one of those innings. You get a cue ball down the third base line. Then you get a double-play ball, which you think is the game-ending double play. It’s not,” Papelbon said. “My whole focus was get a ground ball, get a double play and get us out of the inning.”

Said potential double-play ball — which wasn’t exactly a soft roller — came with the infield drawn well in because the bases were loaded. And the bases were loaded because Papelbon pretty much stunk up the joint. Not only was his fastball a hittable 91 mph, but he was missing with it all over the place. He ended up walking Shin-Soo Choo to end the game on a pitch that wasn’t even close.

Here’s his strike zone plot from


That’s just not good. At one point, he nearly hit Donnie Murphy in the head with a splitter or slider that was meant to be low and outside.

It was the second straight game in which the Phillies’ bullpen came up short. Papelbon did pitch a scoreless frame in the season-opening win Monday, but with his velocity in decline and his command clearly not there yet, more shaky outings are likely on the way.


  1. bender4700 - Apr 3, 2014 at 1:10 AM

    He’s still on the mound, glaring at the batter who isn’t standing there. Saying to himself: “He’s gonna crack soon”.

    Not a good start to the year.

  2. toodrunktotastethischicken - Apr 3, 2014 at 1:20 AM

    Hopefully this isn’t that “hip injury” he had last season but no one knew about until the season was lost and over.

    • gothapotamus90210 - Apr 3, 2014 at 8:47 AM

      His arm slot was all over the place. I think he’s injured.

    • philswfc08 - Apr 3, 2014 at 10:36 AM

      or he just sucks and is washed up. F-U Ruben…who the hell gives a closer that is already showing signs of being on the down side of his career 4yr/50 million?! Turrible!

  3. sisisisisisisi - Apr 3, 2014 at 1:30 AM

    Have you check and see how many of the closers phucked their teams today?

  4. 4d3fect - Apr 3, 2014 at 1:38 AM

    Hahaha, bad luck for the future of his bank account(s)!

    • blabidibla - Apr 3, 2014 at 10:06 AM

      Somehow, I think his bank account is just fine.

  5. 4d3fect - Apr 3, 2014 at 1:39 AM

    Oh, and don’t forget to throw your infielders under the bus.

    • yahmule - Apr 3, 2014 at 1:47 AM

      That was classic Paps.

  6. yahmule - Apr 3, 2014 at 1:49 AM

    So, what are the chances Tony Bastard unseats him?

    Ryno doesn’t seem to waste much time worrying about fragile veteran egos.

  7. brewcrewfan54 - Apr 3, 2014 at 3:44 AM

    Good ole’ Papelbum. This guy makes way to many excuses.

  8. Jack Marshall - Apr 3, 2014 at 5:24 AM

    Pap has always been an ass. Fans and teams will tolerate an ass who still wins, but will turn hard on those who stop.

    • yahmule - Apr 3, 2014 at 7:21 PM

      Nothing in sports is more true than this.

  9. tccoats - Apr 3, 2014 at 5:58 AM

    Phillies should be 3-0, instead they limp out of town 1-2…..its an old and broken team, and Papelbon is unlucky…he just sucks.

    • 18thstreet - Apr 3, 2014 at 9:02 AM

      There’s no “should.” If shutdown closers were so easy to find, every team would have one. To win, you need to get 27 outs. That’s the deal.

      Almost every team could have drafted Mike Trout. Only one of them did.

  10. timasahh - Apr 3, 2014 at 6:40 AM

    Papelbon blew it outright tonight and looked laughable on the mound, but it was first and third when the infield was in, not bases loaded, and had Utley been in double-play depth the game would have been over. I can agree with having a gripe about the defensive positioning there, but he still walked in the winning run. There’s no defending that. At the end of the day, he should be more worried about those side-arm fastballs he was floating over home plate than where Sandberg has the infield.

    It’s still very early, so I’m not singing the blues yet, but I’m hoping this doesn’t turn out to be another season of watching this team find a way to lose.

  11. jrclark1978 - Apr 3, 2014 at 6:45 AM

    Now it’s Papelbon, but all of the other old, washed up, has-beens will be responsible for blowing a game or two at some point this season. The last two games were on the bullpen, but there’s no doubt that their shaky defense, lazy offense and fragile starting pitching will all have a chance to choke. How many times will Howard strikeout to end a game with the potential tying or winning run on the base paths? How many times will Jimmy popup in the same situation? Wait until Adams fully recovers from his torn hymen and gives up a truckload of runs.

  12. Bob Loblaw - Apr 3, 2014 at 6:47 AM

    I hate to pick up for Papelbon, but he was 100% right about the infield positioning. Did he suck? Sure. But the fact is that had they been positioned for a double play with men on first and third (not loaded) the game would have likely been over there. Either way, that’s no excuse to pretty much throw a hissy fit and blow the game soon after. The margin of error for the Phillies is .00001% and they can’t afford to blow 3-1 leads in the 9th. Bad enough they lucked out in game 1 and won a game where they gave up double-digit runs. This team will be lucky to win 75 games.

    • timasahh - Apr 3, 2014 at 6:57 AM

      Only reason I can think of for having the infield in is if they didn’t think they could turn two with Leonys Martin running to first. I don’t know the player that well, but he had 36 SB last year and was caught 9 times for 80% success, so maybe that’s a legitimate concern. In my opinion, though, going for the double-play still seemed like the better option, but then again I’m not a major league manager and hindsight is always 20/20. The fact that Papelbon expected double-play depth at least shows some kind of miscommunication on the team’s part.

      • greymares - Apr 3, 2014 at 7:16 AM

        There is no manager anywhere that would be playing double play depth in that situation. You can’t assume a double play and if you don’t convert, the winning run scores anyway. this is where your CLOSER has to get a strikeout or a pop-up. they don’t call it a blown save for nothing. We Philly fans have low expectations for this season anyway, you can’t lose a game like this especially when K.K. pitched his butt off.

      • kyzslew77 - Apr 3, 2014 at 11:18 AM

        Tying run, not winning run. Plenty of managers play for the GIDP there against a batter who is slow or has average speed. Timasahh has it right, they played in because it was Leonys Martin.

      • timasahh - Apr 3, 2014 at 1:23 PM

        @greymares That would be an excellent point had that been a potential game ending play, but had you watched the game you’d know this play occurred with runners on first and third, not bases loaded, and with the phillies up 3-2, not tied 3-3. Worst case scenario playing in double play depth is the game is tied and you have a runner on first or second. As it stood the game was tied and there were two runners on. A walk later and the bases were loaded and Sandberg went infield in again. That call makes sense. But infield in, up 3-2 with one out, runners on first and third up by one, I still think the benefits lie more in double play depth than infield in on a non-force play.

  13. tfbuckfutter - Apr 3, 2014 at 7:27 AM

    “Thanks Obama.”

    -Papelbon after giving up the walk.

  14. nbjays - Apr 3, 2014 at 7:46 AM

    That strike zone plot looks like the time I tried to do my military rifle requalification… with the hiccups. Only I think I was closer to the target.

    • rollinghighwayblues - Apr 3, 2014 at 9:17 AM

      With the hiccups and* riding horseback…at a gallop.

  15. summeroftony - Apr 3, 2014 at 7:58 AM

    I have a theory on this clown.. ever since the Phils told him he wasn’t allowed to take that prescription pain medicine he’s pretty much stunk. It seems that’s when his velocity started going down. I believe this started in the spring training of his 2nd season with the Phillies. I wonder how often he was taking this med when he was in Boston. Was this something he took to relieve pain or inflammation after every outing?

  16. gbart22 - Apr 3, 2014 at 8:55 AM

    Someone is obviously an angry phillies fan. You can sense the hostility all over this piece.

    • nbjays - Apr 3, 2014 at 1:08 PM

      Nah, that’s just Matthew doing his best impersonation of Craig “I live to troll Phillies Phans” Calcaterra.

  17. 18thstreet - Apr 3, 2014 at 8:56 AM

    Assuming that Papelbon collapses (if he hasn’t done so already), then the first two years of this contract were just fine. Sadly for the Phillies, they’ve signed him for four and maybe five.

    Fangraphs shows him as the 21st-best MLB reliever over the period 2012 and 2013. Certainly not great, but also not godawful, and the Phillies didn’t have a more valuable reliever over that time. (Bastardo’s WAR was 1.4 versus Papelbon’s 2.4.) I’ll add that a great reliever on a bad team is a sorta pointless, as Papelbon himself proved with the 2011 Red Sox.

    I looked at this question with Teixeira, and got a lot of thumbs-down, so maybe I should take a hint. But with Teixeira, the first four years of the deal were just fine. The problem is, the Yankees are paying for eight. For the Phillies, if they had signed Papelbon to a 2-year deal, it would have worked out just fine. So I a version of the Tex question again: what happens if someone offered Papelbon $17.5 million a year for two years ($35 million total) instead of the five year, $63 million deal that he signed with the Phillies? Wouldn’t Papelbon have taken the higher per-season deal, believing that he’s so great, he’ll get another great deal after it expired?

    Just asking.

  18. schmedley69 - Apr 3, 2014 at 9:25 AM

    It’s gonna get very ugly at CBP this season with Papelbon. Not only does he suck, but he has no accountability whatsoever. That’s a very bad combination. Either stash him on the DL or cut your losses and release him. He’s not worth keeping around.

    • greymares - Apr 3, 2014 at 10:57 AM

      I almost agree but the money is lost i make him the garbage time releiver, 4th, 5th inning down 7 or 8 runs bring him in to pitch 3 or 4 innings

      • schmedley69 - Apr 3, 2014 at 11:26 AM

        I’m all for humiliating him, but if he is truly a major clubhouse problem, just get him out of there all together.

    • toodrunktotastethischicken - Apr 3, 2014 at 4:41 PM

      No way in hell RAJr. releases him with $26 Million left on his salary.

  19. aceshigh11 - Apr 3, 2014 at 9:28 AM

    I’m so glad this guy isn’t on the Red Sox anymore. Thanks for ’07 and all, but…nice knowing you.

  20. dowhatifeellike - Apr 3, 2014 at 10:09 AM

    Yes, bad luck is the reason you walked a guy with the bases loaded. Had nothing to do with where you threw the ball.

  21. NatsLady - Apr 3, 2014 at 11:20 AM

    PapelBLOWN (h/t Twitter)

  22. pillowporkers - Apr 3, 2014 at 11:41 AM

    I blame the loss on poor managing. Papelbon just gave up three runs, and walked a guy on 4 pitches where 3/4 pitches were nearly wild pitches. I’m sorry but I could’ve driven in the game winning walk. Everyone watching that game knew he couldn’t throw 3 strikes before 4 balls with the bases loaded there. I would’ve brought someone else in. The only reason they didn’t is this unwritten rule where you let your closer lose it or something.

  23. dtrower1 - Apr 3, 2014 at 1:22 PM

    Papelbon is NOT a pitcher!!! He is a thrower with nothing. A fastball [@92mph] and nothing else !! At 92 and not mixing it up with curves,sliders off speed pitches he is worthless and the PHILLIES pay him much too much. He is not a positive influence in the club house By only throwing what he considers a fastball @92 which is the “wheelhouse” of major league hitters CUT YOUR LOSSES NOW!!!

    • pastabelly - Apr 3, 2014 at 1:42 PM

      I remember when he came up through the Red Sox system with Lester, those two were being looked at a very good potential starters. Papelbon could throw in the mid 90s and they decided he’d be the closer and actually out earned Lester much of the time they pitched together in Boston. Funny how things have changed for both of them.

  24. macjacmccoy - Apr 4, 2014 at 8:52 PM

    Its kind of funny that this loud mouth and his unit is the only reason the Phillies aren’t 4-0. Maybe he should spend less time worrying about the position players, starting pitchers, and how they interact in the locker room and more time worrying about why the part of the team that he is the defacto leader of is giving up leads that everyone but his group is responsible for.

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