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Papelbon’s blown save opens door for Fister to get his 1st

Sep 15, 2015, 12:59 AM EST

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PHILADELPHIA — Jonathan Papelbon has been through this rodeo before. He’s been saving games — and blowing saves — for 11 years now. So don’t expect him to get too caught up with what happened Monday night in his old stomping grounds.

Though it certainly helped that his Nationals teammates picked him up during a wild, 8-7, 11-inning victory over the Phillies.

“I’ve done that plenty of times in my career,” Papelbon said. “I’m very familiar with that situation. But at the end of the day, you play to win the game. And regardless of how it unfolds, you win the game it’s a good day at the office.”

Doug Fister, on the other hand, had never been through this scenario before, at least not in the big leagues. The veteran right-hander did notch four saves in 2006 for the Class A Everett AquaSox. That probably didn’t quite prepare him for the bottom of the 11th inning at Citizens Bank Park, needing to hold the Phillies scoreless to preserve his team’s win despite the fact he hadn’t appeared in any game in 13 days.

“It’s nice to get in there and pitch,” Fister said. “It’s one of those things when your name is called, three outs are three outs, no matter what the score is.”

This is where the Nationals’ season now resides, with Papelbon blowing a save in the bottom of the 10th, then Fister needing to record a save in the bottom of the 11th to ensure his team didn’t fall 10 1/2 games behind the Mets in an NL East race that is all but mathematically over.

Strange times, indeed.

The Nationals acquired Papelbon from the Phillies six weeks ago specifically to close out games like this. Things just never went according to plan. Papelbon got only six save opportunities during those six weeks, the Nats unable to consistently get to the ninth inning with a lead.

It was only fitting, though, that the veteran closer would find himself on the mound for this one, his first game back in Philadelphia since the trade, greeted as you might expect from a small but emotional crowd of 15,402. Papelbon, who earlier in the afternoon didn’t mince words when saying he didn’t believe the Phillies as an organization were trying to win, was immediately greeted by ex-teammate Freddy Galvis, who launched a hanging split-finger fastball over the right-field wall for a game-tying homer.

It not only was Papelbon’s first blown save as a National, but his first blown save as anything this season, actually his first blown save in exactly one calendar year.

“Really? I don’t keep track of any of that,” he said when informed of that factoid.

Such is the required mentality of the closer, who has to possess the ability to erase all previous memories, no matter good or bad. Papelbon takes particular pride in that.

“I’ve been through a lot in my career,” he said. “I’ve had many things come up, adversity overcome. I’ve been in just about every situation you can imagine. Even tonight, I’ve been through that situation so many times before. It is what it is. When I take the mound, you’re talking to a different individual than you are right now. Two different people.”

Fister has no closer experience to rely on. He barely has any relief experience, having only been moved to the bullpen last month when rookie Joe Ross out-pitched him to earn the final spot in the Nationals’ rotation.

The veteran right-hander has tried to adjust along the way, seeking advice from teammates. But it has been a strange existence, never knowing when he might be asked to pitch, or for how long.

“I know I’m out there in the bullpen and I’m there as a tool for them,” he said. “But it is rough sitting there for a long time and not getting in a game. But when it comes down to it, when your name’s called you’ve got to be ready. That’s kind of where we were tonight.”

The Nationals had already used six different relievers before the 11th inning, leaving manager Matt Williams with few conventional options at that point. In the end, Williams decided to go with Fister, even if he never had been used to close out a game.

“We’ve got to go to Doug there,” Williams said. “He’s the one with the most experience. And he did a nice job for us.”

Fister did get into some quick trouble, walking Cameron Rupp to lead off the inning. But he bounced right back to strike out both Andres Blanco and Odubel Herrera before getting Galvis to fly out to left and end the game.

“Honestly, I was approaching it the same way as I do a start,” he said. “I was literally telling myself: ‘One pitch at a time.'”

When he returned to the clubhouse, Fister was greeted by teammates (who gave him a beer shower) and clubhouse manager Mike Wallace (who gave him the ball used to record his first career save).

“Everybody was happy for him,” left fielder Jayson Werth said. “He got a nice beer shower when he got in here. I don’t even think he’s pitched in maybe two weeks, or something like that. Everybody’s happy for him. He’s a great guy, and he’s a big part of this club. So it was good to see.”

  1. ArVAFan - Sep 15, 2015 at 7:16 AM

    Listening to the game last night with Charlie and Dave, I’m glad to be a Nats fan rather than a Phillies fan. This team hasn’t met our expectations this year, but we still greet our former players with cheers, not boos. On that subject, I was speaking with another fan who’d been down to Spring Training. He said he spoke with Michael Morse, who told him that the greeting he got on his return to Nats Park was “the best thing in my career.”

    On the subject of former players, I watched last night’s HR “trots” of Jayson. If I didn’t think he was slowing up to aggravate the Phillies fans, I’d be worried about him. Seriously, I could have beat him around the bases!

    • cwjmonk - Sep 15, 2015 at 7:44 AM

      That’s cool about Morse.

      Yeah, as frustrating as the season has been I’m proud to be a Nats fan.

      • Joe Seamhead - Sep 15, 2015 at 8:40 AM

        On Jayson’s trip around the bases? Make no mistake, he was savoring every moment of his trots and was in no hurry.

  2. cwjmonk - Sep 15, 2015 at 7:41 AM

    Congrats to Fister. Must have felt strange for him…I really wish Williams would use him occasionally, even as an 8th inning setup man.

    Only Pap’s first blown save, and he didn’t tear up the dugout (or slam his thumb in the locker), it’s refreshing to have a closer with the mentality of a closer.
    I actually like Pap, and am confident he’ll rack up many saves for the Nats next year.

    Go Nats!

    • nats106 - Sep 15, 2015 at 8:30 AM

      He couldn’t keep track of 25 players during the season. What makes you think he could keep track of 40 and their availability?

      I wish Desmond would slam his thumb in a locker. 4 K’s he’ll still be in the lineup tonight, I’m sure because he offers the best chance to help MW’s team win.

      • cwjmonk - Sep 15, 2015 at 8:37 AM

        Apparently he can’t, one of the reasons I’d like to see a change of manager next year.
        Might as well let him finish out this season though I suppose…

    • ArVAFan - Sep 15, 2015 at 8:36 AM

      Yep, I was a little skeptical of Pap, but he seems to be an OK guy, both on the field and in the clubhouse. I guess we may have to live with one blown save per year (yeah, right). Now, we just need a team to give him more chances to close. I can forgive him last year’s “gesture”, given (1) I’m sure he was just returning the gesture to the Phillies’ fans, and (2) it sure beats slamming your body parts in your locker. “gesture” gets you suspended for a game or two–slamming takes you out for weeks–or longer, if you’re Mattheus.

      • cwjmonk - Sep 15, 2015 at 8:43 AM

        Yeah I was thinking I’d likely have done the same to those Philly fans.
        Pap hated it there and I don’t blame him 🙂

        I think he’ll be a pretty solid closer next year…but as you said hopefully he’ll actually get some opportunities.
        Wow what a mess the 7th and 8th inning have been.

    • Joe Seamhead - Sep 15, 2015 at 8:44 AM

      I really enjoyed seeing Doug Fister with a happy demeanor in the postgame interview. Haven’t seen that from him all year. Offer to pay the man, Shirley.

      • natsfan1a - Sep 15, 2015 at 1:45 PM

        Agreed, was great to see!

  3. Whack-A-Mule - Sep 15, 2015 at 8:40 AM

    In re: – Desmond – “4 K’s he’ll still be in the lineup tonight, I’m sure because he offers the best chance to help MW’s team win.”

    Even at #2 in the N.L. in K’s (behind only Kris Bryant), Desmond is being marketed.
    He will be elsewhere next year after a QO ; if he is benched in September, it might lower
    his Free-Agency profile. And we would much rather have a nice “sandwich pick”, since he is
    now the 4th-best defensive shortstop on the 25-man roster (after Espinosa, Escobar & Turner).

    • Joe Seamhead - Sep 15, 2015 at 8:52 AM

      I am not so confident that Trea Turner is, at this point, a better defensive shortstop than Ian Desmond is. Now, if you want to talk about potential…and a disclaimer: I have been a huge advocate of Trea since the day the trade was made, and I have also felt that Desi had gotten beat out this year. But folks, I’m telling you, temper your early expectations of Trea Turner.The kid had a ton of errors in the minors this year. Also, though the team has virtually no chance to reach the playoffs, they have not been eliminated. I look to see Turner start when the elimination is official. Maybe denDekker, too.

      • nats106 - Sep 15, 2015 at 9:49 AM

        I agree. Even if he is at Nats Park next year to start the season, he’s going to need time to adjust. I just wanted Espi to get some longer term opportunities at short-I felt Desmond’s continued series of physical and mental errors and his one stop approach at the plate warranted a benching that we never saw happen.

      • sunshinebobby - Sep 15, 2015 at 10:12 AM

        I don’t know either, Mr. Seamhead. But I think Matty has got to play Turner ahead of Ian to find out. We know what Desmond can and cannot do. I’ve seen enough. I have no idea how Turner plays in the bigs. Only one way to find out:

        Play the man, Shirley.

  4. wmlsays - Sep 15, 2015 at 8:53 AM

    And why didn’t they use Fister last Tuesday and Wednesday?

    • Joe Seamhead - Sep 15, 2015 at 9:10 AM

      And why didn’t they use Fister last Tuesday and Wednesday?

      Inquiring minds want to know.

      • Eugene in Oregon - Sep 15, 2015 at 9:38 AM

        Guessing we’ll have to wait until Matt Williams writes his memoirs to find out.

      • nats106 - Sep 15, 2015 at 9:50 AM

        whoa-now that’s a book that will be required reading for insomniacs.

    • legnatsfan - Sep 15, 2015 at 9:14 AM

      That’s exactly what I’ve been wondering. I thought he might be injured but he looked and pitched fine last night. Maybe MW will start using him more since no more Drew.

  5. bababooeytoyouall - Sep 15, 2015 at 1:43 PM

    I don’t believe he doesn’t keep track of those things. He’s said he wants to be the all-time saves leader, so I’m certain #Papeldouche keeps track of everything.

    #Nats fans will tire of his act next year.

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