Two weeks ago, Jonathan Papelbon basically said he’d like to find a new team.
The trading deadline was a few weeks away and the volatile closer said it was “mind-boggling” that anyone would want to stay on a last-place team if given the chance to join a contender. Some people took that as an unintended shot at a couple of his teammates: Both Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, lifetime Phillies, have repeatedly said they’d like to finish their careers in Philadelphia, regardless of the team’s current place in the standings.
But that might be giving Papelbon a little too much credit, assuming he knew that much.
On Tuesday night, Papelbon did his part to keep the Phillies a last-place team. He served up a game-tying home run to Buster Posey with one out in the ninth, the first home run he had surrendered all season.
Five innings later, Jeff Manship surrendered four runs - three on a bases-clearing double by Brandon Crawford - as the Phillies dropped a 9-6 defeat to the San Francisco Giants.
“One pitch, first-ball swinging,” manager Ryne Sandberg said of the Papelbon served-up home run. “He had been on a good roll.”
Papelbon wasn’t in the clubhouse to talk about the pivotal home run afterward. He had already gone home for the night.
The 14-inning, near 6-hour loss was the sixth defeat in the last seven games for the Phillies (43-57). They have matched a season-high low-water mark (14 games under .500) and are a season-high 13 games out of first place.
The blown save was Papelbon’s second since the first week of the season. He had allowed just one run over his previous 21 games entering Tuesday night.
One bad pitch to a former MVP aside, Papelbon, who pitched the 10th to throw two innings for the first time in 2 years, probably looks plenty attractive to contending teams in need of a closer (if the Phillies take on some of his bloated salary, of course).
Papelbon may or may not be here in 2 weeks, despite his best wishes. But at some point soon, someone else may be taking over the ninth inning role, regardless. Someone like Ken Giles.
Within the span of 9 months, Giles made the meteoric rise from Class A to the big leagues, and the 23-year-old has been near-dominant since making his big-league debut on June 12.
On Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park, the rookie righthander faced one of his biggest challenges yet, when an inning tried to unravel out of his control.
Giles saw his 13-game scoreless streak come to an end, but exited a dicey seventh inning with a lead intact. With two on, one run in and one out, Giles blew a 97-mph fastball by Michael Morse before sneaking a slider by Gregor Blanco for another strikeout to end the San Francisco rally.
The run Giles allowed was the first since he served up a home run to the first big-league batter he faced, San Diego’s Yasmani Grandal, 6 weeks ago. He has a 1.13 ERA in his first 15 big-league games, racking up 22 strikeouts while walking three in 16 innings.
But nearly as impressive as those numbers was Giles' ability to overcome adversity against a Giants team that entered the night with the second best record in the National League.
Summoned in to face a righthanded-heavy top of the order in the seventh inning of a 5-3 game, Giles got Hunter Pence to fly out to left. But then Ehire Adrianza ripped a double; it was only the fourth extra-base hit Giles had allowed in the 55 batters he faced to begin his big-league career.
Posey followed by hitting a comebacker off Giles’ glove. Chase Utley, having run over to the bag for an attempt on a ball hit back up the middle, still tried to recover and make a play on the ball; instead, he watched as it rolled in between his legs, allowing Adrianza to score.
The inning continued on an ominous path when Pablo Sandoval, also known as the Kung Fu Panda, flared a blooping single to leftfield. Despite not being armed with his best stuff, Giles didn’t falter.
He challenged Morse with a 97-mph fastball on the upper half of the plate and the 6-5 slugger swung through the pitch. Giles peppered Morse with a barrage of fastballs and sliders in the seven-pitch at-bat before throwing another heater by the former Washington Nationals outfielder.
Five pitches later, Giles was out of the inning after burring a slider in the dirt to get Blanco chasing strike three. Giles threw 22 of his 33 pitches for strikes; it was the most pitches he’d thrown in an inning in his young big-league career.
“He hung in there,” Sandberg said. “He didn't have his good command, as far as throwing strikes and getting ahead. … His stuff played out. He hung in there real well.”
If not for Papelbon, Giles’ effort would have made a winner out of Roberto Hernandez.
The former Fausto Carmona held the Giants to three runs on fives hits in 5 2/3 innings. After sporting a 5.81 ERA over his first five starts, Hernandez has a 3.82 ERA over his last 13 starts.
Hernandez surrendered a mammoth, go-ahead home run to Hunter Pence to begin the fifth inning. But Jimmy Rollins put the Phillies in front a half inning later, following Ben Revere’s third hit of the game, with a two-run home run to left.
The home run was Rollins’ 13th of the season. He’s hit five home runs in his last 10 games.
On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21