Papelbon blows another save in Phils' latest loss

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Papelbon blows another save in Phils' latest loss

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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.

Tonight's lineup: Struggling Tommy Joseph, Cameron Rupp sit

Tonight's lineup: Struggling Tommy Joseph, Cameron Rupp sit

Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp, both struggling mightily through the first month of the season, will get Saturday night off when the Phillies take on the Dodgers in Los Angeles.

Joseph is hitting .190 with one homer and 18 strikeouts in 18 games, while Rupp is batting .180 with one homer and 20 strikeouts through 15 games. Last season, Joseph had 21 home runs and Rupp 16.

Brock Stassi will spell Joseph at first base and bat seventh. Andrew Knapp takes over for Rupp behind the plate and will bat eighth.

Daniel Nava also receives a start, playing left field. The first-year Phillie is hitting .346 with a pair of homers and as many walks as strikeouts (seven).

Zach Eflin takes the mound in a meaningful start for the right-hander (see story). He opposes resurgent Dodgers righty Brandon McCarthy (see game notes).

Here are tonight's lineups:

Phillies
1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Michael Saunders, RF
6. Daniel Nava, LF
7. Brock Stassi, 1B
8. Andrew Knapp, C
9. Zach Eflin, P

Dodgers
1. Andrew Toles, CF
2. Corey Seager, SS
3. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
4. Yasmani Grandal, C
5. Yasiel Puig, RF
6. Cody Bellinger, LF
7. Chase Utley, 2B
8. Chris Taylor, 3B
9. Brandon McCarthy, P

Phillies-Dodgers 5 things: Phils face resurgent Brandon McCarthy

Phillies-Dodgers 5 things: Phils face resurgent Brandon McCarthy

Phillies (11-10) at Dodgers (12-12)
9:10 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

The Phillies' six-game winning streak came to an abrupt end out west Friday night. The beauty of baseball is that you have a chance to start a new streak a day later. Zach Eflin looks to avenge a poor performance from last season while the Dodgers send out veteran righty Brandon McCarthy at home.

Here are five things to know for Saturday evening's game.

1. Two strong starts for Eflin
In his second season as a big-league starter, Eflin is off to a lot better start than last year. 

If you remember his MLB debut, he gave up eight runs and retired just eight batters against a Blue Jays team that could hit the snot out of the ball … and did. Through two starts, Eflin had a 10.80 ERA and two losses to his résumé before coming into his own over the next two months.

This year has been just about the opposite. Eflin clearly looks comfortable on a major-league mound. He's turned Clay Buchholz's spot in the rotation into a positive. He's allowed just three runs and one home run in 12 innings, good for a 2.25 ERA.

The modern thinking is that an ideal pitcher strikes out a lot of batters, avoids walks and home runs, and induces weak contact. Eflin has done all but the strikeouts. His sinker has been marvelous and the Mets/Braves had little chance to do damage against it. Pete Mackanin described the sinker as a bowling ball. That just about says it all. The sinker won't induce that many swings and misses — thus the lack of strikeouts — but he can throw it in the zone and keep hitters off balance.

The Dodgers kind of ended Eflin's season last year. In reality, it was dueling knee injuries that did Eflin in (see story), but the Dodgers were the last team to take advantage of an ailing Eflin, hitting three home runs and scoring seven runs in just three innings Aug. 8. Even the outs in that game were generally line drives. Chase Utley, Yasmani Grandal and Corey Seager — all of whom could be in the lineup Saturday — took the now-23-year-old righty deep.

Being a righty against the Dodgers isn't all that advantageous as the team boasts those three hitters and Adrian Gonzalez, Andrew Toles and Cody Bellinger as lefties who can put up disruptive plate appearances. Unfortunately for the Phillies, they have a rotation full of righties and are unable to take advantage of the Dodgers' platoon issues.

2. Dodgers send out resurgent righty
The first two seasons of Brandon McCarthy's deal with the Dodgers essentially went by the wayside. Now, the 33-year-old starter is picking up where he left off in 2014.

McCarthy has long been one of the more entertaining and thoughtful players in baseball, as evidenced by his Twitter account. The veteran righty has also been a steadily average to occasionally above-average pitcher in 12 MLB seasons, bouncing around teams mostly on the west coast. He posted career-worst numbers with the Diamondbacks in the first half of 2014, but he rebounded in the second half with the Yankees, pitching to a 2.89 ERA in 90 innings despite the hitter-friendly confines of Yankee Stadium.

He parlayed that second half into a four-year, $48 million deal with the Dodgers and that was almost immediately derailed by Tommy John surgery. Going into 2017, he had thrown just 63 innings and made only 13 starts in the first half of his contract. McCarthy was one of many Dodgers pitchers on the disabled list during a 2016 with a record-setting number of injuries for the club.

But now he's apparently back to form and, perhaps most importantly, he's healthy. He's made it through four starts unscathed this year and is 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA to boot. He's allowed just 18 hits in 24 innings. Similar to Eflin, he relies primarily on a dynamic sinker that sits in the low-to-mid 90s. He also features a low 90s cutter and an 80 mph curveball, both of which grade out well this season.

Only three current Phillies have any history vs. McCarthy. With his history in the AL West with the Mariners, Michael Saunders has faced McCarthy plenty with sub-par results, going 2 for 13 with five strikeouts. Freddy Galvis is 3 for 3 off the righty while Andres Blanco is 0 for 1.

3. How does the Dodgers' bullpen stack up?
Going into Friday's action, the Dodgers' bullpen had a 3.15 collective ERA, good for eighth in all of baseball and second-best in the National League. As a whole, the crew strikes out 10.29 batters per nine innings and has the highest wins above replacement of any bullpen in baseball.

Any conversation about the Dodgers' 'pen starts with Kenley Jansen, one of the premier closers in the game today. He overwhelms hitters with a cutter many consider reminiscent of Mariano Rivera. It isn't quite up to Rivera's level, but it is still wildly effective. He has a 2.16 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings this season, locking down six saves in six chances. He dominated the Phillies on Friday night.

Setting up for him primarily is righty flamethrower Pedro Baez. Baez pitches with a dreadfully slow pace but great results, striking out batters at a similar clip and takes a 1.08 ERA into the weekend. Righty Josh Fields and lefty Grant Dayton each hadn't allowed a run this year before Fields let one up in the eighth inning Friday while lefty Luis Avilan has been effective primarily vs. lefties. 

While Chris Hatcher and Ross Stripling, both righties, each has a loss this season, they've still achieved OK results pitching often in low leverage situations. The biggest disappointment for Los Angeles has been the offseason signing of former Giants closer Sergio Romo. The 34-year-old has a 10.57 ERA through 10 appearances and has walked as many batters as he's struck out. If the Phillies get to face Romo in a big situation this weekend, it'll be a tremendous opportunity to do some damage.

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Freddy Galvis takes a 10-game hitting streak into action on Saturday night. Not only does he have good numbers off McCarthy, he's also simply off to the best start to his career. The Phillies' shortstop has traditionally been a better second half hitter but he has a career-best .269 average and .487 slugging percentage thus far.

Dodgers: While he is currently playing corner outfield, rookie Cody Bellinger is the Dodgers' first baseman of the future. Currently the No. 10 prospect in baseball, he had five home runs in Triple A Oklahoma City and is projected to have legitimate in-game power at the major league level. 

5. This and that
• The Phillies went 2-4 vs. the Dodgers last season and haven't won a series at Dodger Stadium since April 21-24, 2014, when they took three of four.

• Frequent trade partners in recent history, the Phillies and Dodgers have teamed up for eight trades since the 2012 trade deadline. Eflin himself came to the Phillies in the 2014 Jimmy Rollins trade.

• McCarthy is typically at his worst in April. He has a 5.01 ERA for March/April in his career, his worst for any month. However, he pitched well the two times he faced the Phillies. He threw eight shutout innings in 2013 and gave up two runs while striking out 12 in seven innings during the 2014 season.