Jonathan Papelbon, the game’s highest paid reliever, gave up three runs on four hits and two walks to blow a 3-1 lead and take a loss against the Rangers on Wednesday. But at least he was willing to shoulder the blame for it.
Well, no, that’s really not what happened at all.
“The whole inning was kind of just one of those innings. You get a cue ball down the third base line. Then you get a double-play ball, which you think is the game-ending double play. It’s not,” Papelbon said. “My whole focus was get a ground ball, get a double play and get us out of the inning.”
Said potential double-play ball — which wasn’t exactly a soft roller — came with the infield drawn well in because the bases were loaded. And the bases were loaded because Papelbon pretty much stunk up the joint. Not only was his fastball a hittable 91 mph, but he was missing with it all over the place. He ended up walking Shin-Soo Choo to end the game on a pitch that wasn’t even close.
Here’s his strike zone plot from BrooksBaseball.net:
That’s just not good. At one point, he nearly hit Donnie Murphy in the head with a splitter or slider that was meant to be low and outside.
It was the second straight game in which the Phillies’ bullpen came up short. Papelbon did pitch a scoreless frame in the season-opening win Monday, but with his velocity in decline and his command clearly not there yet, more shaky outings are likely on the way.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Cubs won’t deal Kyle Schwarber this winter, despite multiple inquires from teams around the league. Schwarber is approaching his first year of arbitration and will remain under team control for another three seasons before reaching free agency in 2022.
The decision comes on the heels of one of the strongest seasons of the 25-year-old outfielder’s short career. Over 137 games and 510 PA for the Cubs, he proved a passable defender in left field and batted .238/.356/.467 with 26 home runs, an .823 OPS, and 3.2 fWAR in 2018. He also led the National League in intentional walks, with 20, and bumped up his total walks from 59 in 2017 to 78.
Despite his marked improvements from previous years, Schwarber’s performance still left something to be desired — specifically against left-handed pitchers, who held the slugger to a paltry .224/.352/.303 with four extra-base hits across 91 PA. Still, it’s evident the Cubs feel Schwarber is capable of strengthening his splits in the years to come, and they might stand to get more value from him on the field than they would in a trade this offseason.
Of course, that’s not to say the Cubs intend to pass the Winter Meetings in total silence, especially as they’ll be seeking bullpen and catching depth in advance of their 2019 run at the division title. As club president Theo Epstein remarked last week, “We’re certainly open and active in trade talks with a lot of deals that usually don’t come to fruition. So, we may make some trades. We could make big ones that transform the roster. We may make smaller complementary ones. But there’s certain things we’d like to accomplish.”