Quote of the Day: Jonathan Papelbon expounds on the highs and lows of closing

26 Comments

Jonathan Papelbon has not been Mr. Popular in Philadelphia, not after he was frequently unreliable last season, lost several MPH on his fastball, and blew a save in incredulous fashion against the Rangers on Wednesday. Fortunately for him, though, manager Ryne Sandberg stuck with him and asked him to get the save on Saturday afternoon against the Cubs. He did, nailing down the 2-0 victory for the Phillies.

After the game, Papelbon was asked about the ups and downs of being a closer. Via MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki on Twitter, Papelbon used an interesting analogy:

Space Mountain, for the uninitiated, is the name of a roller coaster at Disney World. Papelbon went back into serious mode, adding that he recognizes the need to be a pitcher as opposed to a thrower, considering he was only registering 90-91 MPH against the Cubs.

Papelbon, 33, is in the third year of a four-year, $50 million deal with the Phillies. However, he has a fifth-year option for 2016 worth $13 million that can potentially vest, as it requires the right-hander to finish 55 games in 2015 or finish 100 combined games between 2014-15. It’s certainly a contract GM Ruben Amaro is starting to regret.

Astros push ALCS to Game 7 with 7-1 stunner against Yankees

Getty Images
7 Comments

There’s just something about playing in your home ballpark. The Astros decimated the Yankees at Minute Maid Park on Friday, riding seven scoreless innings from Justin Verlander and a pair of big runs from Jose Altuve to win 7-1 and force a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

Through the first four innings, however, the teams looked equally matched. Luis Severino no-hit the Astros through 3 2/3 innings, losing his bid on Carlos Correa‘s line drive single in the fourth. The Astros returned in the fifth to do some real damage, drawing two walks and plating the first run of the night with Brian McCann‘s ground-rule double off of the right field wall. Things didn’t get any easier for Severino. Jose Altuve lined a two-RBI base hit into left field, upping Houston’s advantage to three runs.

Verlander, meanwhile, muted the Yankees’ offense with seven innings of five-hit, eight-strikeout ball. While he didn’t come close to matching his complete game effort in Game 2, he was still plenty dominant against a struggling New York lineup. No player reached past first base until the sixth inning, when a pair of base hits from Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees their first runner in scoring position. That didn’t last long, though, as Gary Sanchez grounded out on a 3-0 slider to end the inning.

In the seventh, Houston’s ace got into another spot of trouble. He walked Greg Bird on six pitches to start the inning, then plunked Starlin Castro on the wrist. Aaron Hicks struck out, in part thanks to a questionable call by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds, but it was Todd Frazier who presented the biggest threat after returning an 0-1 fastball for a 403-foot fly out to left field. Luckily for Verlander, George Springer was there to bail him out with a leaping catch at the wall.

The Yankees kept things exciting in the eighth, too. Aaron Judge ripped his third postseason home run off of Brad Peacock, taking a 425-footer out to the train in left field to spoil the Astros’ shutout. That was the only real break the Yankees got, however, as Altuve, Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis returned in the bottom of the inning to tack on another four runs, including Altuve’s solo shot off of David Robertson:

Ken Giles handled the ninth, expending 23 pitches and giving up a base hit and a walk before retiring Frazier and Headley to end the game. Thanks to Houston’s winning efforts, the two teams will compete in their first seven-game Championship Series since 2004 — and this time, at least one of them is guaranteed to come away with a win.

Game 7 of the ALCS is set for Saturday at 8:00 PM ET. Houston right-hander Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62 ERA) is scheduled to face southpaw CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA).