Papelbon blows it for Phils in tough loss to Texas

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Papelbon blows it for Phils in tough loss to Texas

BOX SCORE

ARLINGTON, Tex. – After being beaten down by all the losing in 2013, Jonathan Papelbon came back this season with a new, positive, upbeat attitude.

Unfortunately for the Phillies, he has the same tired fastball, and the team still has the same haunting questions at the closer position.

Three outs were all that stood between Papelbon and his first save of the new season Wednesday night. More importantly, three outs were all that stood between the Phillies and a season-opening series win against the Texas Rangers.

Once upon a time, Papelbon would have stuffed those three outs into his back pocket and the Phillies would have boarded their charter flight to Chicago in the highest of spirits.

Instead, that flight to Chicago must have been miserable.

Papelbon couldn’t get the three outs the team needed. In his first save chance of the new season, he failed to protect a two-run lead in the ninth inning. The Rangers rallied for three runs against Papelbon and danced off the field with a 4-3 win, their second walk-off victory against the Phillies’ bullpen in 24 hours (see Instant Replay).

“That was a tough one,” Carlos Ruiz sighed in the somber losing clubhouse, moments after Papelbon walked in the winning run with the bases loaded.

It was a tough loss and an alarming one, as well, because the Phillies are counting on the highly-paid Papelbon -- $13 million this season and next –- to nail down wins. However, when he was called on to nail down this one, he looked no better than the guy he was last year when he blew seven saves and had a career-worst 81 percent save percentage while striking out a career-low 8.3 batters per nine innings.

Papelbon faced seven batters in the game and retired just one. He allowed four hits and walked two. His best fastball was between 90 and 92 mph. In his prime, it was 95.

After the game, the 33-year-old closer blamed his problems on a mechanical flaw.

“I was definitely flying open a little and coming out of my delivery,” he said. “Obviously, it’s a disappointment.”

Without the pop he once had, Papelbon now has to mix pitches and, for the first time in his career, concede to some contact. In this game, he relied on his low-octane fastball and left it up in the strike zone, where hitters feasted.

“They were on his fastball and he was elevating it,” manager Ryne Sandberg said. “He can’t rely on contact up in the zone. He needs his secondary pitches and he needs to be down.”

Papelbon allowed hits to three of the first four batters he faced in the ninth. The third hit was an infield squibber by Jim Adduci that scored a run and put runners on the corners with one out.

With the pressure building and the Phils’ lead down to one, pitching coach Bob McClure visited Papelbon and told him to get a ground ball. Papelbon did get Leonys Martin to hit a ground ball to the first-base side of the second base bag, but it got by Chase Utley, who was playing about three steps off the grass because his priority was to cut the tying run at the plate. The middle infield would have only gone for a double play on a sharply hit ball right at the second baseman or shortstop. The Phillies call that “Three Depth.” The defense is called from the bench.

Papelbon did not appear to be thrilled with the defensive call. In fact, he threw his arms up in the air when Martin’s hit traveled into center field, driving in the tying run.

“Obviously I don’t know whether that’s called from the bench or by the middle infielders,” Papelbon said. “But less than two outs, I’m thinking ground ball and I’m thinking let’s get this double play and go home.

“Obviously I’m not going to second-guess my teammates or my coach. Whatever they decide, I’ve got to run with it and go with it and do my best to do my job. But it’s just one of those weird innings, man.”

Sandberg did his best not to look worried about Papelbon. He mentioned how he was pleased with the offense during the series. He praised reliever Mario Hollands for bouncing back after taking the loss Tuesday night and pitching a scoreless eighth inning Wednesday night.

But when the conversation turned back to Papelbon and whether he thought his closer was trending downward, all Sandberg could say was, “We’ll see how it goes.”

So far, it doesn’t look good.

The Phillies are 1-2 and they have the same old haunting questions at the closer position.

Best of MLB: Rendon explodes for 3 homers, 10 RBIs in Nats' 23-5 win vs. Mets

Best of MLB: Rendon explodes for 3 homers, 10 RBIs in Nats' 23-5 win vs. Mets

WASHINGTON -- Anthony Rendon had 10 RBIs, three home runs and six hits as the Washington Nationals took advantage of Noah Syndergaard's injury and mauled the New York Mets 23-5 on Sunday to set a franchise scoring record.

Rendon went a career-best 6 for 6 and scored five times while setting a club mark for RBIs. He became the 13th player in major league history to drive in 10 or more in a game, and first since Garret Anderson did it for the Angels in 2007.

Matt Wieters added two homers, a single and two walks as the Nationals salvaged the finale of a three-game series. Adam Lind and Bryce Harper also homered, and Harper scored four runs.

Washington finished with a season-high 23 hits and scored the most runs in the history of the Expos/Nationals franchise. The Nationals' seven homers were their most since the team moved from Montreal to Washington in 2005 (see full recap).

Keuchel improves to 5-0 with dominant start vs. Astros
HOUSTON -- Dallas Keuchel threw 7 2/3 solid innings, Marwin Gonzalez hit a three-run home run and the Houston Astros beat the Oakland Athletics 7-2 on Sunday.

Keuchel (5-0) struck out nine, while allowing one run on three hits and two walks. The left-hander has thrown at least seven innings in every outing this season. He became the second pitcher in Astros history to get five wins in April, joining Rogers Clemens, who went 5-0 in 2004.

After Trevor Plouffe doubled with one out in the first, Keuchel retired ten straight and 13 of the next 14 batters he faced.

Ken Giles earned his sixth save after getting Yonder Alonso to fly out with the bases loaded.

Jesse Hahn (1-2) gave up four runs on eight hits with six strikeouts in six innings.

Gonzalez hit his home run off the right field foul pole in eighth (see full recap).

Miguel Sano's 5 RBIs help hand Royals 9th-straight loss
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Miguel Sano homered and drove in five runs, helping the Minnesota Twins beat slumping Kansas City 7-5 on Sunday for the Royals' ninth straight loss.

Sano posted his fourth consecutive multihit game. He has 11 hits in his last 16 at-bats. He drove in nine runs in the two-game, rain-abbreviated series.

Sano connected in the third after Jason Hammel (0-3) walked Byron Buxton and Max Kepler. He added run-producing singles in the fourth and sixth innings.

It's the longest slide for Kansas City since a 12-game skid in April 2012 (see full recap).

Instant Replay: Dodgers 5, Phillies 3

Instant Replay: Dodgers 5, Phillies 3

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers hit two more home runs in beating the Phillies, 5-3, on Sunday afternoon.

The Dodgers swept the three-game series from the Phils, hitting seven homers in the final two games, including five on Saturday night. Three of those homers Saturday night came in the ninth inning, as the Dodgers rallied back from a three-run deficit to hang an excruciating loss on the Phils.
 
Sunday's loss was not as painful. The Phils got a leadoff triple from Cesar Hernandez and an RBI single from Freddy Galvis in the first inning then did not score again until the ninth.
 
The Dodgers out-hit the Phillies, 13-4, over the first eight innings.
 
The Phillies are 11-12 heading into Chicago to play the defending World Series champion Cubs.
 
Starting pitching report
Nick Pivetta allowed 10 baserunners in his big-league debut but managed to limit the damage to just two runs thanks to a couple of double plays, a couple of big strikeouts and a fortuitous bounce that turned a double into a ground-rule double, which meant a runner had to hold at third.
 
Four of the nine hits that Piverta allowed were for extra bases, including a homer by Chris Taylor that gave the Dodgers a 2-1 lead in the second. He walked one and struck out five.
 
Dodgers lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu held the Phillies to three hits and a run over 5 1/3 innings. He walked three and struck out nine. He is 1-4.
 
Bullpen report
Jeanmar Gomez entered the game with the Phils trailing just 2-1 in the sixth. He allowed a leadoff single, a two-out walk to pinch-hitter Chase Utley and a three-run homer to Andrew Toles as the Dodgers put the game away.
 
With Hector Neris unavailable after throwing 19 pitches in Saturday night's disaster, Mackanin was likely holding back right-handers Edubray Ramos and Pat Neshek for the late innings in case the Phils got a lead.
 
Gomez has a 9.64 ERA.
 
Kenley Jansen got the final out and the save for the Dodgers after Grant Dayton gave up a two-run, two-out homer in the ninth. Jansen struck out Hernandez on three pitches.

At the plate
Maikel Franco struck out three times, snapping a career-best streak of 32 straight plate appearances without a strikeout.

Galvis has hit in 12 straight games.

Odubel Herrera smacked a two-run homer in the ninth to make it a two-run game.
 
Justin Turner had seven hits in the series, and he didn't even start the second game. (He had a game-tying, pinch-hit homer in that one.) He had three hits Sunday, including an RBI single in the first inning.
 
Toles had two homers in the series.
 
On the bases
Cameron Rupp, who entered the day hitting .180, had a pair of doubles and a single but short-circuited a potential rally when he was picked off second by rival catcher Yasmani Grandal on a no-outs bunt play with the Phils down a run in the fifth.
 
In the field
Not only did Turner have a big series at the plate, he robbed Tommy Joseph of a hit in the seventh inning with a fabulous pick of a hot smash to third. Joseph needed the hit as he is slumping badly. He went hitless with two strikeouts and is hitting .179.
 
Up next
The Phillies move on to Chicago for four games against the defending World Series champion Cubs. Here are the pitching matchups:
 
Monday night -- RHP Vince Velasquez (1-2, 6.33) vs. LHP Brett Anderson (2-0, 3.54)
 
Tuesday night -- RHP Jeremy Hellickson (4-0, 1.80) vs. LHP Jon Lester (0-1, 3.68)
 
Wednesday night -- RHP Jerad Eickhoff (0-2, 3.56) vs. RHP Jake Arrieta (3-1, 4.66)
 
Thursday afternoon -- RHP Zach Eflin (0-0, 1.89) vs. RHP John Lackey (2-3, 5.10)