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.

Best of MLB: Matt Kemp walk-off HR lifts Braves over Giants

Best of MLB: Matt Kemp walk-off HR lifts Braves over Giants

ATLANTA -- Matt Kemp hit a two-run homer off Cory Gearrin in the 11th inning to lift the Atlanta Braves to a 5-3 win over the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday night.

The homer, the third of the game for Atlanta, was Kemp's seventh game-ending shot of his career.

Gearrin (1-2) walked Nick Markakis with one out before Kemp's homer barely cleared the right field wall..

Matt Adams hit a two-run homer and Tyler Flowers also homered off Jeff Samardzija.

Braves Sean Newcomb, who gave up one run in six innings, was denied his first win when Hunter Pence's homer off Braves closer Jim Johnson tied the game at 3-3 in the ninth. It was Johnson's fifth blown save in 18 chances (see full recap).

Diamondbacks ride 10-run 4th inning to victory
DENVER -- Taijuan Walker pitched six solid innings and slapped an RBI single during Arizona's biggest inning ever on the road -- a 10-run fourth -- and the Diamondbacks went on to beat the Colorado Rockies 16-5 on Wednesday night.

Shaking off Tuesday's tough loss in which Colorado rallied late for a one-run win, the Diamondbacks sent 14 men to the plate and pounded out nine hits, including a two-run double and RBI single by Brandon Drury in his two at-bats in the inning. Drury finished with four hits and career-high six RBIs and the Diamondbacks established season highs in run and hits (20).

David Peralta and Paul Goldschmidt also connected for two hits in the inning and combined for three RBIs, helping the Diamondbacks snap the Rockies' winning streak at six games and setting up Thursday's match between the NL West rivals as the decisive game in the series (see full recap).

Royals rally past Red Sox on Perez grand slam
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Salvador Perez hit his first career grand slam, connecting in the eighth inning to rally the Kansas City Royals over the Boston Red Sox 6-4 Wednesday.

The Royals have won nine of 11 and moved within a game of .500.

Perez homered over the Kansas City bullpen in left field on the ninth pitch from Robby Scott (0-1). With Boston leading 4-2, reliever Matt Barnes started the inning by walking Jorge Bonifacio and Lorenzo Cain on 12 pitches.

Scott was summoned to face Eric Hosmer, but walked him on four pitches to load the bases for Perez. The All-Star catcher fouled off three full-count deliveries before hitting his 15th home run of the season.

According to ESPN Stats and Information, Perez was the first Kansas City player to hit a grand slam in the eighth inning or later with the Royals trailing since Frank White in 1986.

Jorge Soria (3-2) worked a spotless eighth. Kelvin Herrera pitched the ninth for his 17th save in 19 chances (see full recap).

Phillies on pace for 111 losses after bizarre late-game bullpen meltdown

Phillies on pace for 111 losses after bizarre late-game bullpen meltdown

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In the big picture — and that's what has really mattered right from the beginning of this season — something quite positive happened for the Phillies on Wednesday night: A young, promising pitcher took a nice step forward and for the second straight start offered hope that he might just be a reliable piece of the rotation when this rebuilding club is ready to be relevant again.

But in the narrow view, it was easy to look right past Nick Pivetta's six innings of three-run, 10-strikeout ball. That's how bad the losing has been. Every night offers a gaper delay on the highway to 100 losses.

Did we say 100?

How about 111? That's the Phillies' current pace after an ugly 7-6 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals (see Instant Replay) — and 111 losses would match a franchise high set in 1941 when Doc Prothro's club went 43-111.

It's bad, folks.

But you already knew that.

This one was especially unsightly for how the Phillies lost it. They blew a five-run lead under the weight of a barrage of home runs — two against the bullpen in the eighth and ninth innings — had the potential winning run cut down at the plate by 20 feet in the bottom of the ninth then lost it in the 10th after a troubling meltdown by reliever Edubray Ramos.

You almost had to see it to believe it. And if you didn't see it, don't bother looking for a replay. It will only hurt your eyes.

"We let that five-run lead get away from us," manager Pete Mackanin said. "Real disappointing night. Pivetta did a really good job for us, gave us six good innings. And we had 16 hits; you have to win a game when you get 16 hits. We couldn't push any more runs across until that 10th inning. Very disappointing."

Pivetta — 19 strikeouts in his last two starts — took a 5-0 lead to the mound in the fifth and was tagged for a home run on a 3-2 fastball in that inning. No problem. He issued a two-out walk in the sixth then served up a first-pitch, two-run homer to Jedd Gyorko. Little problem, but not fatal.

Things started to turn bad in the eighth when reliever Joaquin Benoit served up a first-pitch homer to Jose Martinez to make it a one-run game and they got worse when Hector Neris blew his second save in three games when he gave up a game-tying homer to Tommy Pham (his second of the game) on a 1-1 fastball in the ninth.

In the 10th, Ramos gave up a leadoff double to Martinez. The reliever then balked Martinez to third and gifted him home plate on an errant pickoff throw to first base. (It sailed way over Tommy Joseph's head.) The Cards ended up scoring two runs in the frame. The second one came in handy when the Phils pushed across one in the bottom of the inning.

Ramos looks like a pitcher who needs to go to the minors to clear his head. In his last three outings, he has faced eight batters and allowed three hits, three walks and seven runs. He has also committed a costly balk and a costly error, signs that's he becoming a little overwhelmed.

"I don't know what to tell you," Mackanin said. "It looks like he's mixed up or something. He's not the same guy."

Ramos declined to speak with reporters after the game.

But Odubel Herrera and Pat Neshek did agree to chat.

Neshek, the Phillies' best reliever, was conspicuously absent from a close game. He threw 28 pitches Sunday, had a day off Monday and threw 11 on Tuesday. He was not available. What was curious was that Mackanin said Neshek had told him he was sore. Neshek said he never said such a thing, that he showed up to the ballpark and was told he was getting a day off, which he actually thought was a good idea. But sore? Not so, he said.

As for Herrera, he drew attention for running through third base coach Juan Samuel's stop sign in the bottom of the ninth inning and getting nailed at the plate for the final out. Samuel said it was the first time a player had ever run through one of his stop signs. In this case, Herrera almost ran him over.

"It's just bad timing for it," Samuel said.

There was some question as to whether Samuel's stop sign went up too late, but Herrera dismissed that. He said he was simply running with his head down.

"I was playing aggressive," he said. "I wanted to win the game. So when I was rounding third, I put my head down. I kept going to home plate. I saw [the stop sign]. But I saw it late. I put my head down. That's my mistake."

Making a mistake didn't make Herrera unique Wednesday night.

"The mistakes we're making are giving the other team too many pitches to hit," Mackanin said. "Those are our mistakes. Especially late in the game."