It was like déjà vu when Jake Diekman coughed up a late lead against the lowly Astros Thursday. That was the seventh time the Phils lost a game with a lead with two outs in the eighth this season.
It’s a remarkably high number, especially when you have an ultra-competitive closer in the bullpen, one who is very well compensated.
Former Phillies closer and MLB analyst Mitch Williams doesn’t get it.
“If I’m Charlie [Manuel], I’m going to have a talk with Jonathan Papelbon and say, ‘We’re paying you $50 million,” Williams said. “If we get to the eighth and we’re in trouble, you’re coming in.’ Knowing Jonathan he won’t balk at that. He’ll come in and try to put out the fire. If he closes out some of those games and pitches the eighth and ninth, I think it would be alright. He’ll get his days off. It should balance out.
“But the bottom line is that those games he doesn’t pitch in the eighth and the team loses could be the difference between making and missing the playoffs.”
That’s right on the money. The games the Phillies blew late will probably be the reason they are looking from the outside at the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
The odds are that Papelbon would have answered the call for most of those eighth-inning opportunities.
“I’m here to do whatever it takes to win,” Papelbon said. “I want to win as bad as anybody on this team.”
In Manuel’s defense, he has had little to work with in the eighth inning. Antonio Bastardo has been unreliable. Chad Qualls was a bust. Michael Stutes was hurt for virtually the entire year. And now the new kiddie corps (the guys from Triple-A Lehigh) is trying.