For most of the first three months of the Major League Baseball season, Philadelphia Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon had been excellent. But for some reason, over his past few outings, the 32-year-old right-hander has fallen apart.
On Monday night, Papelbon entered the bottom of the ninth inning with a 3-0 lead over the San Diego Padres. He proceeded to blow his third save in a row and fourth in his last five chances. Maybe this is just a bad stretch of play from him, but man he’s just completely melted down over the past week.
Cliff Lee was masterful for eight innings Monday night, holding the Padres scoreless and scattering six hits. But when he opened the ninth inning by surrendering a single to Carlos Quentin and a double to Chase Headley, manager Charlie Manuel called on his closer to finish it out.
Papelbon entered and promptly gave up a two-run single to Kyle Blanks, then hit Jesus Guzman to put runners on first and second with no one out. Yasmani Grandal then grounded into a double play, but with two outs, Papelbon threw a splitter to Mark Kotsay that got away from catcher Carlos Ruiz, allowing Blanks to score from third to tie the game at 3.
Kotsay eventually walked and Papelbon finally got Alexi Amarista to fly out to center to send the game into extra innings. The Padres won the game in the bottom of the 10th thanks to a bases-loaded single from Blanks.
Papelbon had been perfect on save opportunities until June 17, when he blew his first against the Washington Nationals. Including that game he has tossed five innings in his last five appearances, while giving up seven hits and five runs (three earned). He has also walked two batters while only striking out two and allowing two home runs.
The eight-year veteran’s ERA has jumped from 1.46 to 2.12 in that span.
This could just be a minor blip on the radar of Papelbon’s season, but right now everyone on the Phillies is playing under a microscope. The righty is in the second year of a four-year, $50 million contract and is making $13 million this season. He will definitely be shopped at the deadline if the Phillies are selling.
Philadelphia entered the season with baseball’s third-highest payroll at $170.76 million, and the team has only produced a 36-41 record. The Phillies currently sit eight games back of the Atlanta Braves for first place in the National League East.