Papelbon talks about comebacks and contracts

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Papelbon 2.jpgA Jonathan Papelbon interview always presents the chance for some crazy. He’s just one of those guys who — refreshingly I might add — doesn’t always revert to platitudes.  Sadly, he was pretty straight up and lucid yesterday in an extensive interview with WEEI’s Alex Speier, talking about going year-to-year with the Sox, his role models and about bouncing back from getting beat up by the Angels in Game 3 of the ALDS:

By his own account, he replayed the video of that meltdown 100 times in
his home gym during the winter, using his unprecedented failure as a
tool to push him harder towards 2010.
“I was using it as motivation whenever I was feeling tired and weak in
the weight room,” Papelbon said on Tuesday afternoon at the Red Sox’
minor league training facility, shortly after his first bullpen session
of the new year. “I’d pop it on and say, ‘There’s still work to be

Given that relief pitchers are supposed to have no memory, aren’t supposed to dwell on the past and all of that I find it interesting that he’d go back and watch that outing. Not that he can’t do whatever he needs to do to stay motivated. Other tidbits from the interview:

  • Papelbon thinks this slight falloff in 2009 was attributable to mechanical tweaks he made early in the season and that he straightened that out by the end of the year. There’s some evidence of that — his walk rate went down as the season progressed — but more worrisome was his over-reliance on his fastball, especially in the playoffs.  He says that was just a mental block on his part — he lost touch of his split finger and became loathe to throw it — and that it’s going to change this year;
  • Papelbon says people should not assume that he will be leave Boston when he is eligible to become a free agent and that, if he had his way, he’d stay in Boston for 15 years. Nice, but something tells me that Theo will be holding the door for him — or more specifically, his contract — when he hits the market.
  • One thing there was no mention of was Josh Daniel Bard [I have made that mistake approximately 246 times in the last year]. It’s been so long since I’ve seen a Papelbon interview in which he wasn’t asked about Bard — or baited to say something provocative, maybe — I was rather surprised.

All in all a pretty calm, rational and standard interview from Papelbon. Which, while kind of sad on some level, is probably exactly what Sox fans want to hear.

Clayton Kershaw can win in the postseason! Who knew?

Clayton Kershaw
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Sometime after their Game 2 loss to the Rangers last week, the Blue Jays decided they trusted Marcus Stroman more than Cy Young candidate David Price in a potential Game 5 start. Such is the power of a postseason slump.

It can lead to one of the best hitters in the world being dropped to the eighth spot in the lineup. It can lead to quality regulars sitting at highly irregular times. In the postseason, what you did yesterday matters 10 times as much as what you did last month, usually not for the better.

Fortunately, Clayton Kershaw never had to worry about being skipped because of his postseason struggles. Even calling them struggles overstate the reality. In his previous three postseason starts, Kershaw had:

  • Allowed two runs over six innings in Game 1 of the 2014 NLDS against the Cardinals before being left in to give up a whopping six runs in the seventh
  • Pitched six scoreless innings on three days’ rest in Game 4 of the 2014 NLDS before giving up a three-run homer in the seventh
  • Allowed one run over 6 2/3 innings in Game 1 against the Mets before his two inherited runners came around to score off the pen
So, yes, Kershaw entered Tuesday’s outing against the Mets with a 4.99 postseason ERA, but he had turned in six quality starts in nine tries, allowing one earned run or fewer three times. It wasn’t nearly regular-season Kershaw, but it also wasn’t as bad as the ERA suggests, not when he’d been the victim of slow hooks and lousy bullpen support.

And, really, Tuesday’s win over the Mets didn’t seem much different at all than Kershaw previous couple of postseason starts, at least through six innings. Maybe the fastball was amped a bit. The real difference this time was that he made it through the seventh. Best of all, since he was on three days’ rest, Don Mattingly wasn’t tempted to send him back out for the eighth at 94 pitches, as he probably would have done had Kershaw been on normal rest. The bullpen took over and turned in two hitless innings in the 3-1 win, sending the NLDS back to Los Angeles for a decisive Game 5 on Thursday.

It’s completely unnecessary redemption for Kershaw, who had nothing in need of redeeming. But it’ll keep the trolls quiet for now and also all winter if Kershaw doesn’t get the chance to pitch again. He’d surely prefer to risk the chance of failure again next week in the NLCS.

Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers top Mets in Game 4 of NLDS to force a Game 5

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

There will be a decisive NLDS Game 5 on Thursday evening in Los Angeles.

Clayton Kershaw yielded just three hits and struck out eight batters over seven innings of one-run ball and Justin Turner hit his fourth double of the series — a two-run poke down the left field line in the top of the third inning — as the Dodgers defeated the Mets 3-1 in Game 4 of the National League Division Series on Tuesday night at Citi Field.

Kershaw’s past postseason demons peaked their head out when Yoenis Cespedes reached on an infield single to lead off the bottom of the seventh, but there was no Matt Adams or Matt Carpenter to make him pay this time around. Kershaw retired the next three batters in order and then gave way to reliever Chris Hatcher for the eighth inning having thrown 94 pitches on short rest.

The only run Kershaw allowed was on a Daniel Murphy solo shot in the fourth inning. The other two hits he surrendered were singles.

Los Angeles’ bullpen answered the call after Kershaw’s departure, with Hatcher and closer Kenley Jansen combining to post two big zeroes on the scoreboard in Queens. Jansen secured the final four outs, earning his fifth career postseason save and second this October.

Jacob deGrom is lined up for the Mets and Zack Greinke will be on the hill for Los Angeles in the loser-goes-home tilt Thursday at Dodger Stadium. This series is shaping up to be a classic.

The winner Thursday will face the Cubs in the National League Championship Series.

Video: Justin Turner gives Dodgers early Game 4 lead with two-run double

AP Photo/Julie Jacobson
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Clayton Kershaw has looked sharp on the mound and at the plate so far in this must-win NLDS Game 4 at New York’s Citi Field.

After no-hitting the Mets in the first two frames, Kershaw smacked a one-out single to left-center field in the top of third inning. Howie Kendrick followed soon after with a two-out single to left and then Adrian Gonzalez blooped a ball to shallow center that drove in Enrique Hernandez, who had reached earlier on a fielder’s choice grounder to second base.

That all set up this Justin Turner two-run double down the left field line that put Los Angeles up 3-0

That’s now four doubles this postseason for Turner, which is a Dodgers franchise record for the Division Series. Los Angeles is trying to force a Game 5.