View Count: 138 |  Publish Date: April 03, 2014
Look on the bright side: Kendrick
David Murphy, Daily News Staff Writer Posted: Thursday, April 3, 2014, 12:17 AM
ARLINGTON, Texas - Well eventually get to the state of the Phillies bullpen, and their never-a-dull-moment closer.
First though, we have to point out that Jonathan Papelbon has a point when, in a soft voice reeking of disappointment, he said that the ninth inning of last nights 4-3 loss was one of those innings.
The only thing that matters, of course, is that Papelbon eventually lost it: his composure, his command and, ultimately, the game. He is paid good money not to lose any of those things. He did lose them, and the Phillies are now 1-2 because of it.
First, though, to his point. More coverageAre Phillies bullpen woes on Sandberg? VOTE: Do you approve of Sandbergs lineup changes?POLL: Most popular Phils infielder from this era in 20 years?PHOTOS: 2014 Phillies Spring TrainingFollow the Phillies: Download our FREE Pro Baseball app!VOTE: Who will win the NL East?Latest Phillies videos Forum: Can the Phillies contend in 2014? Do you approve of Ryne Sandberg’s lineup changes? Yes. He has every right to tinker.No. Cody Asche sits after scoring four runs in the opener? View results
To set the stage: With the Phillies leading 3-1 after seven strong innings from Kyle Kendrick and a redemptive eighth from Mario Hollands, the $13 million closer unraveled on the mound at Globe Life Park, retiring just one of the eight hitters he faced while allowing three runs, the last of them on a bases-loaded walk that sealed the Phillies second straight walk-off loss.
Now, the oddities: Adrian Beltres leadoff single came on a fastball that was sternum high. Jim Aduccis single, which cut the Phillies lead to 3-2, came on a soft ground ball that he cued off the end of the bat to third baseman Cody Asche. And then there was the play that set fire to the powderkeg, a ground ball off the bat of Leonys Martin that, had Chase Utley been at doubleplay depth, likely would have resulted in a game-ending 4-6-3. Instead, with Utley playing a few steps in, apparently at the behest of his manager, the ball squirted through the middle for a game-tying single.
Mac had come to the mound for a visit there and said, OK, lets get a ground ball, Papelbon said, referring to pitching coach Bob McClure. My whole focus was getting a ground ball to get a doubleplay to get us out of the inning.
Obviously I dont know whether thats called from the bench or called from the middle infielders, but less than two outs Im thinking ground ball and Im thinking lets get this doubleplay and go home. Obviously Im not going to second-guess my teammates or my coach. Whatever they decide, Ive got to run with it and go with it and do my best to do my job. But its just one of those weird innings, man.
Thats where Papelbon lost it. He threw four straight balls to Donnie Murphy to load the bases, setting up a six-pitch walk to Shin-Soo Choo that ended the game. Afterward, he sat at his locker with his legs crossed, staring into the wooden void.
We have a lot more games to play, he said. Obviously its a disappointment. I thought Kendrick pitched well enough to deserve that win and unfortunately the bullpen wasnt able to preserve it for him. But its a long season and I think thats one of the stronger points of my game, being able to bounce back and not have any memory of the previous game good or bad. We just have to continue down the path.
This next sentence goes without saying, but were going to say it anyway, because nothing that was written above should be interpreted as excusing the Phillies losing two out of three in a series that they easily could have swept. Again, Papelbon was the recipient of one of the richest contracts ever bestowed upon a reliever, which means he is held to a standard that exceeds all the woulda-coulda-shouldas and what-are-ya-gonna-dos that are inevitable when one allows balls to be hit into play. The economics demand that Papelbon performs at this level, and for much of the last calendar year, he has not. His fastball velocity sat 90 to 92 miles per hour last night, which is 3 to 5 miles per hour less than it sat during his dominant first season with the Phillies. He was able to get away with it last year because he was able to pitch consistently down in the zone. His strikeout rate dropped precipitously, and he blew seven saves. But he was, for the most part, effective.
Last night, he was not effective, and he will not be effective any time he is up in the zone the way he was. This was Ryne Sandbergs take, and it was an accurate one. A few years ago, he might have gotten away with some of those pitches, because the hitters bat would not have caught up to them. Now, though, he needs to pitch. The Phillies already have enough question marks in their bullpen. They cannot afford - quite literally - another one. And after two straight losses in which their starters combined to allow two runs in 13 innings, another question is exactly what they have. Previous Story:Papelbon blows it for Phillies in TexasNext Story: At least one pitcher delivered David MurphyDaily News Staff Writer Twitter | Email #post2 .pw-icon.ra1-pw-icon-reddit {background: url() 0px 0px no-repeat !important;width: 60px !important;height: 20px !important;margin-right:8px;}#post2 .pw-icon.ra1-pw-icon-email {background: url() 0px 0px no-repeat !important;width: 71px !important;height: 28px !important;}0 commentsReprints & Permissions »

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