Jonathan Papelbon received another punch in the gut from the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday night.
And just for the heck of it, the Detroit Tigers gave him a kick in the pants.
One night after blowing a save in the ninth inning of what became a 14-inning loss, Papelbon returned to the mound in a scoreless game and allowed three runs in the Phillies’ 3-1 loss to the Giants at Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay).
Papelbon hit a batter and walked two, one intentionally, before Hunter Pence blooped a bases-loaded double to right on a full-count pitch with two outs in the top of the ninth inning.
The loss was the Phillies’ seventh in the last eight games and it dropped them to a season-high 15 games under .500. They have lost three straight to the Giants, who go for a sweep Thursday afternoon.
The Phils have played 101 games. They have scored two or fewer runs 38 times, including 21 times in 51 home games.
The inability to keep the Giants off the board in the ninth inning after A.J. Burnett had matched zeroes with Madison Bumgarner for eight innings was only part of the reason it was a bad night for Papelbon.
The Phillies’ closer has made it no secret that he’s ready to blow town and join a contending team, but in less than a week he has seen two closer-needy teams land a closer that is not him.
Last week, the Angels traded for Huston Street.
On Wednesday night, the Tigers acquired Joakim Soria from Texas (see story).
The chairs are disappearing in this game of Who Needs a Closer and Papelbon could end up staying right here in Philadelphia when the music stops at next week's trade deadline.
Papelbon said he did not know the Tigers had gotten Soria when he met with reporters after Wednesday night’s loss. He said he was not disappointed by the news.
“I don’t worry about things in life I have no control over,” Papelbon said. “I don’t think about it one way or another.
“I love the bullpen I’m in right now. I love the guys down there. To me, it makes no difference, you know. Whatever happens happens. I have no control over that. What are you going to do? I don’t worry about it.
“I go out there every day, try to prepare to do my best and let the hits land where they land and let the umpires call the calls they call.”
That last comment was a reference to the ninth inning. Papelbon thought he had struck out Pence on a 2-2 breaking ball two pitches before Pence’s soft-serve hit to right. Umpire Vic Carapazza said the pitch was low.
“Can’t really do nothing about it,” Papelbon said. “A missed 2-2 pitch and a bloop hit. There ain’t nothing much I can do.”
Papelbon’s performances the last two nights have been witnessed up close by a Detroit scout who is in town looking at relievers. With the Tigers no longer in need of a closer, they could continue to look at Antonio Bastardo. The Jays and Royals are also peeking in on Bastardo.
It’s unclear how many teams are still looking for closers. Baltimore? Maybe. The Giants? Maybe. Both teams might have bigger needs elsewhere.
Despite his results the last two nights, Papelbon has had an excellent season. So why aren’t teams jumping on him? Maybe it’s the money. He is owed the remainder of $13 million for this season, $13 million next season and has a very reachable option for $13 million the following season. The Phillies are willing to pay some of Papelbon’s salary, but still no takers. It’s been this way for a year now.
In addition to Papelbon and Bastardo, Burnett and Marlon Byrd remain trade possibilities. Burnett did not hurt his value with eight shutout innings Wednesday night. Interestingly, one team that has been linked to Burnett, the Pirates, had a scout in town Monday and Tuesday night, but he did not stay for Burnett’s outing.
“I have no idea what’s going to happen,” Burnett said.
Bumgarner allowed just five hits and walked none over eight innings.
The Phillies got a runner to third base with one out against Bumgarner in the second inning, but failed to get him home. In the eighth, they had runners on second and third with one out and came away empty against Bumgarner. The Phils were 1 for 6 with runners in scoring position.
“Man on third, less than two outs,” Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. “That’s been a problem the last three games, leaving stranded guys out there, and it really came up big tonight.”
Pence is the Ghost of Trade Deadlines Past for the Phillies. They acquired him at the deadline in 2011 on their way to 102 wins and dealt him away the following year.
In this series, he is 7 for 17 with a double, a triple, a homer and six RBIs.
The former Phillie is a Phillie killer and that must feel pretty good, right, Hunter?
“I get satisfaction out of every win,” he said. “I’m out to win every game and go as hard as I can.”