So was last night’s epic collapse in San Diego the final nail in the Phils’ coffin? Or was it the last shovel of dirt on top of it?
For the fourth time in eight days, closer Jonathan Papelbon blew a save, and the Phillies blew a 3-0, ninth-inning lead, falling to the Padres in 10 innings, 4-3.
The Phils probably should have traded Papelbon a week and a half ago.
This was not how anyone wanted the first game of a 10-game west coast road trip and swing through Pittsburgh to go. But it is how things have gone for most of this year, so no one should be surprised.
The Phils wasted a gem from Cliff Lee, who did not give up a run through eight innings of work. But a questionable decision by Charlie Manuel to allow Lee to start the ninth inning blew up in everyone’s faces.
Lee had thrown 109 pitches through those eight brilliant innings and was allowed to start the ninth, even though Papelbon had been warming up. At the time, the move may have made some sense. Lee had dominated the Padres and Papelbon had blown three saves in the last week and a half. Sticking with Lee wasn’t the stupidest idea in the world.
But like so many other moves the Phils have made so far in 2013, this one was a disaster as well.
San Diego opened the bottom of the ninth with a first-pitch single off the bat of Carlos Quentin and a 1-0 double by Chase Headley, putting Padres runners at second and third with no out. Manuel summoned Papelbon, who then proceeded to allow a soft single to center off the bat of Kyle Blanks to make it 3-2. Papelbon then hit Jesus Guzman with a pitch to put runners at first and second with no out.
Yasmani Grandal hit into a double play which, although it put Blanks on third, seemed to shine a light at the end of the tunnel. But then a passed ball by Carlos Ruiz allowed Blanks to score from third, tying the game.
From there, Justin De Fratus managed to walk two batters and hit another before Blanks hit a walk-off RBI single to win it.
If there was ever a game that would convince you these Phillies are not going anywhere in 2013, this was it.
It seems incomprehensible that they would blow a 3-0 lead in the ninth inning of a game Cliff Lee started. Even as bad as the Phils have been at times this year, the possibility of that happening seemed ludicrous. But it happened.
So Charlie, what about that decision to leave Lee in to pitch the ninth?
“I wanted to send Lee back out there,” Manuel said. “Pap had a lot of work last week and Lee was pitching a good game. I was waging a lot of things. But evidently I didn’t make the right choice.” – quotes per CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury
Papelbon analyzed his performance thusly: “(Bleep) happens,” said Papelbon. “A blown save is a blown save no matter which way you look at it.”
“Bleep” has been happening quite a bit for this ballclub, which fell to 36-41 on the season. The Phils still have two more games against the revitalized Padres, four games in Los Angeles and then three in Pittsburgh against the second-best team in the NL.
Yes, the Pirates have the second-best record in the National League. You can look it up.
If the Phillies lose on Tuesday, they will be a season worst six games under .500. For a team that has continued to talk about now being the time to make a run and putting it all together, there is absolutely no indication anything like that is about to happen.
And perhaps worst of all, Papelbon’s recent implosion has likely hurt his trade value. Through June 4, Papelbon had a 1.25 ERA and allowed opponents to hit .162 off him, with 13 saves in 13 opportunities. In his next eight outings, including last night, Papbleon has posted a 5.14 ERA and has blown four saves. That is not the way to increase trade value or win baseball games.
So despite protestations from some that the Phils are “still in the hunt,” are “a second half team” and “ready to break out,” they continue to lose games like last night’s heartbreaker in San Diego.
One wonders when the official breaking point will be for Amaro, Manuel and company.
If it hasn’t already arrived.
Where It All Went Wrong
When Lee gave up a single and a double to start the bottom of the 9th. It was at that point the game immediately felt like a loss. Asking the Phillies bullpen to not allow inherited runners to score is like asking Delmon Young not to be fat. It’s something they simply cannot do.
If I had to pick one, I’d say Utley, because he went 2 for 5 and hit a home run. Mayberry had three hits, too. So, I guess they kinda qualify.
Blanks, who was a one-man wrecking crew in the ninth and tenth innings, driving in the first two runs and then the game winner off De Fratus.