Papelbon placed bounty for a walk-off homer
Jonathan Papelbon finally blew a save. Until Saturday’s game against the Rays, the Phillies' closer was a perfect 17 for 17 in save opportunities.
Yet he still found a way to contribute to the 7-6 win (see Instant Replay)
Papelbon may have given Jim Thome just the inspiration he needed to hit his 13th career walkoff home run.
“I came into the clubhouse and I said, 'Whoever walks this guy off, I’ll give him five grand,'” Papelbon said. “I didn’t think Jim would do it right off the bat.”
Thome did not give any of his teammates a chance to collect on the bounty -- he was the first and last batter in the bottom half of the ninth, blasting a shot into the left field stands. Papelbon said he immediately wrote the check. Thome would not confirm if payment had been made.
Either way, Papelbon may have bought his way out of a sticky situation. The Phillies took a 6-4 lead into the ninth, but the closer let it slip away.
The Rays’ two-run, game-tying rally in the ninth was sparked by a line drive single from Hideki Matsui with one out. After a fielder’s choice, Papelbon walked Jose Lobaton.
That set the stage for Jeff Keppinger, who drove Matsui in from second base on another lined single. Brooks Conrad then drove in Lobaton to tie the game at six.
Papelbon eventually struck out Sean Rodriguez to end the inning.
While Saturday marked Papelbon’s first blown save of the season, he struggled in his last outing as well. On Wednesday against the Rockies, he allowed the go ahead run in the top of the ninth after taking the ball with the game tied at 5-5.
Papelbon ended up getting a win after the Phils pulled out a 7-6 victory in the bottom of the ninth. He earned a win on Saturday too.
“It was just pitch location, misfiring a little bit, some mechanical stuff,” Papelbon said of Saturday’s outing. “I got to get back in the bullpen and get back to the drawing board.”
Charlie Manuel had a simpler explanation for Papelbon’s struggles:
“He just had one of those days where they scored some runs on him,” Manuel said. “He’s human just like everybody else.”
Papelbon was determined to have his blown save overshadowed by a walkoff. The closer even walked up to the on deck circle to make sure Thome heard his $5,000 offer. Thome responded with his 609th career homer and the Phillies picked up their third win in the last four games.
“Lately it seems like we’ve been catching some breaks,” Papelbon said. “Guys have been picking each other up. Maybe that’s what we needed.”