Papelbon's Second Blown Save Hurts More Than His First, Nats Rally to Avoid Phils Sweep

Papelbon's Second Blown Save Hurts More Than His First, Nats Rally to Avoid Phils Sweep

Jonathan Papelbon probably wasn't going to go the whole season without blowing a save, and we were lucky that his first failed conversion of the year--two nights ago, against this same Nats team--was redeemed by a bottom-of-the-ninth Phils rally, capped by a Domonic Brown RBI single to drive home Ben Revere. However, blown saves result in heartbreak more often than not, and tonight, the Philly offense failed to bail out their closer, when a Jayson Werth RBI single off Pap in the 9th tied things up at 2-2, and Ian Desmond broke things wide open with a grand slam in the 11th. Final score: Nats 6, Phils 2.

Remarkably, not only did the Phils have a chance to win this one in the bottom of the ninth again, but it was almost the exact same scenario as it was two nights ago. Not only did the Phils have two on with two out, they had Dom Brown up at the plate again with the chance to let Pap off the hook and send the Philly Phaithful home happy. He even squibbed a soft liner up the middle that looked like it had a chance of depositing in shallow center, as his winner on Monday did. But this time, the ball died gently in the shortstop Desmond's glove, and the Phils never again got a real chance.

Tonight was not the Domonator's night in general. For the second straight night, he went 0-4 with multiple strikeouts--in fact, the aforementioned soft liner in the 9th was his only time even putting the ball in play. Add in some sluggish defense out in left, and Dom is officially in a bad way at the moment, now having gone ten straight games without an extra base hit--this, of course, immediately following a stretch where he homered ten times in 13 games. In a way, this is a relief, because we knew we were gonna get some serious regression to the mean with DomBro sooner or later, but man, it's almost getting to the point where he's as cold now as he was hot previously. (Almost.)

That said, there's plenty of blame to go around in the Phils' lineup tonight, which after a two-run Michael Young homer in the first, went the next 33 outs without bringing a single man across the plate, racking up just two additional hits in the process. The weak offensive effort wasted a stellar pitching outing from Kyle Kendrick, who had one of his best outings of the season against the struggling Washington offense, going 7 2/3rds with six strikeouts, letting up just two hits, a walk and a run in between his 23 outs. Still, he got to hand the ball over to Jonathan Paplebon with the lead, and up until this series, that'd been good enough for the Phils this year. Sigh.

At least the end of the series means no more Jayson Werth for a while. Werth ends the series 4-12 with a homer and four RBIs, as well as a big walk in the 11th inning tonight, all continuing the time-honored tradition of ex-Phils excelling upon their return visits to Philadelphia. The Nats also leave town having reclaimed the runner-up spot in the NL East, Philly falling back to three games under .500 and eight behind the victorious Braves.

Day off tomorrow, then three against the Mets. The really sad thing about the Phils sub-.500 record is how many crap teams they've played over their first 70+ games, and how even with a sweep of the again-lowly Mets, we'll still be a definitively mediocre team with the real meat of the schedule still yet to come. Hopefully a couple more healthy regulars will help with compensate for that--Chooch got a hit tonight, while Chase began his rehab stint in Reading--but man, getting Dom swinging the bat again (and actually hitting the ball while doing so, preferably far) would be pretty nice as well. Otherweise, getting to .500 might be as good as it gets with this team.

Phillies can exhale after bullpen nearly blows 10-0 lead

Phillies can exhale after bullpen nearly blows 10-0 lead

BOX SCORE

The moment when the ball struck first baseman Tommy Joseph’s glove for the final out of the Phillies 10-8 win over the Mets — dealing a major blow to their rival’s wild card hopes in the process — felt more like a collective exhalation than a moment of celebration (see Instant Replay).
 
Two days earlier, the bullpen faltered suddenly. A game-tying two-run homer by Jose Reyes in the ninth was the first body blow. The game-winning three-run homer by Asdrubal Cabrera was the knockout.
 
Saturday, the collapse occurred over the course of five innings as the Phillies let a lead that was once 10-0 slip away, one drawn-out at-bat after another.
 
Missing, of course, was the moment of impact in the proverbial slow-motion car crash, thanks to well-placed sinkers and four-seamers from Michael Mariot.
 
“The bullpen’s been sputtering,” manager Pete Mackanin said in an understatement.
 
Joely Rodriguez entered in the sixth inning with a 10-4 lead to face a string of lefties and it quickly became apparent that he did not have his fastball. A middle-in four-seamer that caught too much of the plate was slapped for a double by Mets shortstop Gavin Cecchini, his first major-league hit and a run. A second run scored when a little dribbler by third baseman T.J. Rivera died on the third base line, leaving Rodriguez with no play.
 
“He just didn’t throw quality strikes,” Mackanin said.
 
Even the normally-reliable Hector Neris struggled on Saturday. In his 77th outing of the season, Neris walked two straight batters and then surrendered an RBI double to Cecchini of his own which narrowed the lead to 10-7 and thrust the uncertainty of a save situation onto Mackanin.
 
Mariot was given first crack at the ninth inning one day after Mackanin said he would give Jeanmar Gomez a break from closing duties.
 
Mariot’s audition got off to a rough start. He gave up a pinch-hit solo home run to Jay Bruce — who had been mired in an 0-15 slump — with one out in the ninth and then walked Eric Campbell and Michael Conforto after a pair of grueling at-bats that lasted a combined 18 pitches.
 
The two hitters fouled off eight of Mariot’s pitches and took several four-seamers that just missed the plate.
 
“I was pretty upset about that,” Mariot said of the four-seamers that missed. “I was hoping to get at least a swing or maybe a call on those. Talking to [catcher] A.J. [Ellis], I think he said that they missed but I was hoping at least one of them to get called a strike.”
 
Gomez was up in the Phillies’ bullpen but Mariot ensured that Mackanin wouldn’t need to throw the recently-struggling closer back into the fire in a high-stress situation.
 
Mariot was able to locate his fastball when he needed to most. He fooled Lucas Duda with a two-seamer that the slugger popped out to Freddy Galvis and got Travis D’Arnaud to ground a four-seamer outside right back to him.
 
“I just told myself: ‘keep throwing strikes and good things will happen,’” Mariot said.
 
He threw just enough strikes to ensure that the Phillies didn’t end up on the wrong end of what would have been the Mets’ biggest comeback in team history.

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College football wrap: Auburn upsets No. 18 LSU with controversial finish

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College football wrap: Auburn upsets No. 18 LSU with controversial finish

AUBURN, Ala. -- Gus Malzahn was ready to try anything to get a win for his Auburn Tigers.

Malzahn relinquished offensive play-calling duties. Following his daughters' advice, he traded his usual game-day visor for a cap. And then, when the clock expired and LSU players were celebrating an apparent last-second win, the Auburn coach put all his faith in a ruling he couldn't control.

Daniel Carlson kicked six field goals and Auburn beat No. 18 LSU 18-13 on Saturday night after officials ruled Danny Etling's apparent last-gasp scoring pass came after time expired.

Malzahn said he knew there were only zeroes on the clock before the snap to Etling.

"I was pretty confident time had expired," Malzahn said. "It was just a matter of going to the booth and confirming it."

Etling rolled to his right and found D.J. Shark in the back of the end zone on a 15-yard pass, setting off a short-lived celebration by LSU players (see full recap).

Hornibrook proves he's ready in Badgers' win over Spartans
EAST LANSING, Mich. -- By the time Alex Hornibrook's first start was over, there wasn't much question about whether he could handle one of the toughest road tests in the Big Ten.

Hornibrook threw for 195 yards and a touchdown, and 11th-ranked Wisconsin turned its early-season showdown with No. 8 Michigan State into a rout, beating the Spartans 30-6 on Saturday.

"You've got to have respect for a guy whose first start is against a Michigan State defense," Wisconsin running back Corey Clement said.

"He's going to come out the next game and do even better. I think he's just getting his feet wet."

The freshman quarterback outplayed fifth-year senior Tyler O'Connor, his Michigan State counterpart. The Badgers (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) were the better team in the first half and then outscored the Spartans 17-0 in the third quarter (see full recap).

No. 23 Rebels find their rhythm, beat No. 12 Georgia 45-14
OXFORD, Miss. -- Mississippi quarterback Chad Kelly faked the handoff and then took off running toward the end zone. A few seconds and 41 yards later, the quarterback had cruised through the middle of the Georgia defense and into the end zone untouched.

It was pretty much that easy for the Rebels all afternoon. Ole Miss finally built a lead it couldn't give away.

No. 23 Ole Miss rolled to a 45-14 victory over No. 12 Georgia on Saturday, building a 31-0 lead by halftime and a 45-0 advantage by midway through the fourth quarter.

Kelly threw for 282 yards and two touchdowns. Ole Miss (2-2, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) broke a 10-game losing streak in the series dating to 1996 (see full recap).

Dobbs rallies No. 14 Vols to 38-28 win over No. 19 Gators
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- This time, Tennessee delivered the comeback.

And in the process, the Volunteers took out 11 years' worth of frustration on Florida.

Joshua Dobbs accounted for five second-half touchdowns Saturday and No. 14 Tennessee erased a 21-point deficit to beat No. 19 Florida 38-28 and end their 11-game losing streak in the annual series.

"I didn't see anybody blink," Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. "Nobody flinched. They just kept playing."

This marks the first time Tennessee (4-0, 1-0 SEC) has beaten Florida (3-1, 1-1) since 2004. The Volunteers had lost to Florida by one point each of the last two years despite leading in the fourth quarter of both games (see full recap).