Jonathan Papelbon blew his sixth save of the season in the Phillies' 2-1 loss to the Giants. (USA Today Images)
It didn’t exactly go over very well. When closer Jonathan Papelbon said the Phillies needed to make changes “from top to bottom” in the organization and that he didn’t sign with the team to go through a losing season last weekend in Detroit, it didn’t win him too many new friends.
But Papelbon wasn’t taking anything back. Not even after picking up another blown save with a two-run ninth inning in a 2-1 loss to the Giants on Thursday night at Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay).
“I think they speak for themselves,” Papelbon said, offering no mea culpa. “Whether I blow a game or whether I save a game, whatever is happening within the organization, I feel like I’m honest and forthcoming and I’m the same way after games like tonight.
“I feel like that’s the best way to go about a day’s work is to just be honest with yourself and be honest with the position you’re in and not try to sugarcoat anything or trying to see something for what it’s not. That’s the way I’ve always been. I go by facts and I stand by what I say. I don’t feel like I said anything that wasn’t true.”
Still, maybe it’s not a good idea to blow a save in the first outing since calling out everyone.
Handed a 1-0 lead after Cole Hamels pitched brilliantly for eight innings, Papelbon, in his first save opportunity since July 11, allowed two runs on four hits and a walk. The four hits were all singles to start the ninth inning with Joaquin Arias driving in the go-ahead run on the 10th pitch of the frame.
No, the Giants didn’t exactly tear the cover off the ball in dealing Papelbon and the Phillies their 10th loss in the last 11 games. But the Giants didn’t get any cheap ones off Papelbon, either.
“Not me. I think my ball has life at the plate, which is all I care about it,” Papelbon said. “If I’m getting hit all over the ballpark with hard hit balls, I have to reassess. After a night like tonight, you just kind of chalk it up to that’s that. I felt all of my pitches were working. I felt good. I felt strong. It was just one of those nights.”
Yes, Papelbon is chalking it up to just one of those nights. Though manager Charlie Manuel said Papelbon was “a really good closer when he’s right,” and his velocity on his fastball hasn’t been what it used to be, he doesn’t see the need for too many adjustments. Even though that in addition to the six blown saves, Papelbon has seen his strikeouts per nine innings dip dramatically, he says it’s by design.
“I’m not going out there and trying to blow anybody away. I’m trying to get outs,” Papelbon said. “That’s basically what it boils down to.”
Besides, Papelbon says he also has been forced to make certain adjustments and pitch in situations he hasn’t been used to as a closer.
“I think for me this year it’s been a constant adjustment on how to figure out how to go without pitching or pitching in tie ballgames a lot,” Papelbon said. “I think for me more than anything there have been some situations that have come up that have been fairly new for me. I think for me I just try to go out there one day at a time to see how I can get better each day and not necessarily worry about struggling and whatnot.”
Still, one has to wonder how culpable Papelbon feels he is for the Phillies’ lackluster season. At 50-58, the Phillies are 13½ games behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL East and just 2-10 since the All-Star break. Papelbon has blown six save opportunities and closed out just seven games since June 17.
Certainly, that’s not the type of closer the Phillies were looking for when they signed Papelbon to a four-year, $50 million deal before the 2012 season. Those six blown saves have resulted in just three losses, which means his teammates have bailed him out. Against the Giants, Papelbon could not help out Hamels.
“Obviously, I want to go in and preserve wins for these starters, man. Because that’s what I take pride in,” Papelbon said. “But some nights, it really, you just go back in the dugout and you kind of scratch your head, like, what just happened? A tough pill to swallow.”
Papelbon is hardly the only one to blame in the Phillies’ latest loss. Against Matt Cain, the Phillies got six hits and Hamels -- taking matters into his own hands -- drove in the only run for the Phillies with a two-out single in the fifth.
The Phillies had a chance to score in the seventh after Darin Ruf walked to lead off the inning and pinch runner Michael Martinez stole second base. With one out, Martinez was thrown out at the plate after John Mayberry Jr. singled to left.
Manuel said Martinez got a bad jump off second.
In the eighth, Jimmy Rollins tripled with one out, but was thrown out at the plate when Michael Young grounded one into the teeth of the drawn-in infield.
Then in the ninth, the Phillies had the bases loaded and no outs against Giants’ closer Sergio Romo and still could not tie the game. Laynce Nix popped out to shallow right, Carlos Ruiz popped out to shallow left and pinch hitter Erik Kratz grounded out to end the game.
Afterwards, instead of talking about pitching a gem for a much-needed win, Hamels was asked how he felt about Papelbon’s comments.
“I don’t like to lose. I didn’t sign here to lose,” Hamels said. “A lot of the thoughts that we have don’t get voiced a lot, and sometimes they do get voiced and it can look really bad. But I think all of us want to win and are capable of winning, but it isn’t happening and I think it’s very frustrating. It’s the human nature of not being able to control our emotions and things creep out that probably don’t need to be said.
“But at the same time, things obviously have to be addressed, because if we keep going down this path there will have to be changes. That’s myself included. I have to go out and win and be the best pitcher I can every five days and be a part, and if I’m not a part then I’m a culprit, and I don’t want to be a culprit. So we have to get back to winning ways and plug away.”
Next, the Phillies host the Braves for three games starting on Friday night.