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Phillies 12, Nats 5: Papelbon’s ugly ninth inning dooms Nats

Sep 27, 2015, 4:43 PM EDT

Washington Nationals starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez (47) throws a pitch in the second inning of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park, in Washington, on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: For the first time all season, the Nationals took the field to play a game in which they were not a part of a pennant race. With playoff elimination behind them, all that’s left are the eight meaningless games against NL East opponents that could have been do-or-die had the Nats not squandered their opportunity.

But what seemed like a routine back-and-forth affair between two struggling division rivals was quickly overshadowed by a more troubling development between Bryce Harper and closer Jonathan Papelbon. The 22-year-old superstar intimated days earlier that he was not thrilled with Papelbon’s decision to throw at Orioles third baseman Manny Machado, so it was natural to assume that tensions between the two were rising.

Fast forward to Sunday, where after Harper flied to left in a 4-4 game in the eighth inning, Papelbon appeared to yell obscenities in his direction, inciting a brief dugout scuffle. The sequence was followed by the decisive ninth that saw the closer charged with five runs (two earned) in what was one of the worst moments of the season.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: The second inning featured fireworks from Ian Desmond and Matt den Dekker. Desmond, very likely playing his final games as a National, hit a solo shot to get Washington on the board. That was immediately followed by den Dekker’s homer, an estimated 449-foot blast that hit off the back wall near right center.

PITCHING LOWLIGHT: After Papelbon and Harper’s scuffle in the bottom of the eighth, the Nats closer took the mound in the following frame of a 4-4 game. His task was only keep the game tied, but to fend off an increasingly hostile home crowd. Neither happened. With every ensuing miscue, the D.C. faithful unloaded a wave of boos and hurled other unpleasantries towards the 34-year-old right hander. To make matters worse, he gave them reason to; Papelbon yielded the go-ahead two-run homer to Andres Blanco before allowing three more hitters to reach base. By the time Matt Williams came to the mound to make a pitching change, Nats Park serenaded Papelbon with perhaps the most vociferous booing any player has received at home. The Phillies scored eight runs total in the inning, capping off one of the uglier moments in an already disappointing season.

KEY STAT: In his career, den Dekker has five home runs. Four of them have been hit this season, his first with the Nats.

UP NEXT: The 2015 home finale, a 3:05 p.m. makeup tilt vs. the Cincinnati Reds. Max Scherzer (12-12, 2.98 ERA) and left hander Brandon Finnegan (4-1, 3.65 ERA) are on the mound.

  1. joemktg - Sep 27, 2015 at 5:11 PM

    What’s the opposite of “winning cures all ills?”

    • kkpp3 - Sep 27, 2015 at 5:18 PM

      “Losing reveals true character”

      • Eugene in Oregon - Sep 27, 2015 at 5:43 PM

        +1

  2. slidell2 - Sep 27, 2015 at 5:11 PM

    Just when we thought Papelbon was a good guy despite his reputation. I don’t know how one can sugarcoat this mess. Did Williams give a post-game interview? Was Harper injured, etc.?

  3. Mrsb loves the Nats - Sep 27, 2015 at 5:17 PM

    Disaster of epic proportions..

    • Eugene in Oregon - Sep 27, 2015 at 5:44 PM

      The game or the season?

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Sep 27, 2015 at 5:59 PM

        The 2015 Washington Nationals. I cant wait for this disaster of a season to be over.

  4. rmoore446 - Sep 27, 2015 at 5:21 PM

    This guy (Pap) has a history of being a bad clubhouse teammate. This addition was a serious mistake by Rizzo. All things considered, one of his worse.

    Post game, Williams says Harper wasn’t hurt. Says it is “A family matter” and will be handled internally. Not much else. Article in today’s Washington Post that Williams has lost the clubhouse quoting without naming players. This can’t help him. A week ago I would have said that Williams is back. Now I think he’s gone.

    We need two more wins to reach the break even point. Not sure we will get there.

  5. texnat1 - Sep 27, 2015 at 5:24 PM

    This is pretty much a dumpster fire at this point. Look for Paps to be traded. Will have to just be a salary dump, and they will probably have to eat some money.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Sep 27, 2015 at 5:46 PM

      Can he be traded? I mean without agreeing to it. I’m not recalling the rules and/or the status of his contract and don’t have time (or inclination) to look them up.

      • texnat1 - Sep 27, 2015 at 6:34 PM

        Does he have a no trade? I hope not. But given his desire to pile up saves, they could probable get him to agree to it easily by just telling him he won’t be the closer.

  6. Section 222 - Sep 27, 2015 at 5:45 PM

    Wow. What a nightmare. I was at the game and didn’t now what happened in the dugout until about 10 minutes into the disastrous 9th inning. Lots of booing of Pap, which I didn’t quite understand until I saw the video on Twitter. Ridiculous.

    My prediction — MW gone and Pap gone after the season.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Sep 27, 2015 at 5:48 PM

      Agree on Matt Williams. I was agnostic into early August, but I think that’s a given at this point.

      See my question above about Jonathan Papelbon’s contract. Apart from any questions about who might want him (what price, etc.) can he be traded without his consent? I hope so, but I’m not certain.

      • Section 222 - Sep 27, 2015 at 5:56 PM

        I don’t know whether he can be traded without his consent, but it hardly seems like a huge obstacle if they find someone to trade with. Would you insist on staying in a place where everyone dislikes you when you can make just as much money somewhere else?

      • Eugene in Oregon - Sep 27, 2015 at 6:20 PM

        I understand what you’re saying, but he insisted in staying in Philadelphia for longer than he was wanted.

    • Another_Sam - Sep 27, 2015 at 6:13 PM

      I’m with you, 222. Do you think they’ll wait ’til the end to make the moves?

    • janebeard - Sep 27, 2015 at 6:38 PM

      My husband saw Pap jaw at Harper, and Harper smile like it was a joke, and then saw Pap turn around and go into the dugout. Then the people in front of us started screaming and we jumped on twitter right away. Boing at Pap was the first (and hopefully last) time I EVER booed at one of my guys. The lowest point n Nats history. They should not wait till next year to dump him. Turn this around NOW and fast and DFA him by tomorrow. Nothing anyone could have said could justify that kind of attack. Absolutely nothing. I hope it doesn’t hurt Harp’s MVP chances.

      • Joe Seamhead - Sep 27, 2015 at 7:08 PM

        Jane, I admit that you were right the day the trade was made. Papelbon is a defect. In all respects.

    • natsfan1a - Sep 27, 2015 at 8:42 PM

      Same here. After I saw the video, I understood what was going on with crowd reaction.

  7. nickr26 - Sep 27, 2015 at 5:49 PM

    I knew the moment we traded for papelbon we where in trouble and look what happened we completely fell apart after that trade people think this stuff is like video games and good players (papelbon isn’t even that good) can just do good no matter where they play but nope chemistry matters

    • janebeard - Sep 27, 2015 at 6:35 PM

      Me too. We SAID character matters and then we brought him in.

      And speaking of character, Pap ATTACKS another player physically, and Matt keeps him in because “he’s our closer”??? How about, “He’s an ASSAILANT.” I’m questioning Matt’s character about now, too.

  8. Joe Seamhead - Sep 27, 2015 at 5:53 PM

    Somebody help me understand (carried over from the last thread):
    vannordens – Sep 27, 2015 at 4:52 PM
    I am not a fan of Papelbon, but I think someone had to call out Bryce for his lack of hustle.

    reply report comment
    Joe Seamhead – Sep 27, 2015 at 5:09 PM
    Sorry, but that leaves a lot of reasons to wonder wtf you are are talking about?

    vannordens – Sep 27, 2015 at 5:18 PM
    You think Bryce has been hustling? I don’t. Playing real well. Yes. MVP yes, Hustling no.

    Joe Seamhead – Sep 27, 2015 at 5:44 PM
    You’re killing me. That kid certainly has been busting his ass all year, and the likes of Jonathan Papelbon has no, and I mean no,none whatsoever, justification to call Bryce Harper out.

    Joe Seamhead – Sep 27, 2015 at 5:13 PM
    Papelbon goes before the blood red moon, if I’m in charge.

    reply report comment

    • natslive - Sep 27, 2015 at 6:14 PM

      Joe that person must be a troll….

      • natsfan1a - Sep 27, 2015 at 8:43 PM

        Agreed.

    • janebeard - Sep 27, 2015 at 6:40 PM

      Joe, you are dead on. I’m with you. He’s played really hard all season. Pap needs to go, no matter what it costs financially. They have to stand up for what the owners and managers say is true. He simply can never walk into that clubhouse again.

      • Joe Seamhead - Sep 27, 2015 at 7:14 PM

        Jane, Mrs. Seams and I agree with you 100%. I’m embarrassed that Ieven tried to support bringing that cracker here.

  9. ArVAFan - Sep 27, 2015 at 5:58 PM

    Thank you, Daniel (or whoever made the decision) to put up a photo of Gio instead of Pap at the top of the page.

    Bad words I can understand: emotions are high and the stress has to go somewhere. But trying to choke someone? That’s beyond the pale.

    So Ian’s last video highlight as a National at Nats Park is him grabbing Bryce to pull him away from Pap. Sad. Maybe they’ll let Ian play tomorrow so he has a better ending.

  10. coolhandbane - Sep 27, 2015 at 6:10 PM

    Did anyone watch the MLB network after the game? To sum it up, the three baseball reporters said Bryce has a lot og talent. With that talent comes expectations and he needs to act to those expectations as one of (if not the best) players in the league. They also said fighting between teammates “happens” and they didnt say pap was in the wrong (that I heard). They also didnt say what would happen to pap nor why pap attacked Harper nor what would happen to Williams.

    Sad day for us nats fans. Cant wait for this season to be over.

    I really cant see Matt Williams being back next season, especially after letting pap stay in after assaulting Harper with the reason “he is our closer”. This is the same Williams who refused to bring in pap in a tie away game. If the washington post article is true, then Matt Williams is fired.

    We will have a new team next year, especially our bullpen. No pap (if he isnt at minimum punished, I’ll be really pissed) or no Storen (if they actually trade him). You know the team wont want the same relievers we have had this year

    • janebeard - Sep 27, 2015 at 6:41 PM

      +22

  11. naterialguy - Sep 27, 2015 at 6:27 PM

    This episode from papeldouche finally moves nyjer out of the number one position of displaying a total lack of class and professionalism.

  12. rgsie - Sep 27, 2015 at 6:31 PM

    What a mess!!! Rizzo is going to have a long cold winter. Bring on the snow.

  13. ehay2k - Sep 27, 2015 at 6:32 PM

    Boy have I had the misfortune of going to the worst games this year! The last 2 games of the Mets series, the O’s series, the Zimmerman Bobblehead disaster, and today. The last scheduled home game is usually one of the most fun, most relaxing games of the year. Today, it was a microcosm of all that went wrong for the Nats, except no one got injured (as far as we know now!):

    Our SP couldn’t go 6. Casey Jansen delivered batting practice for the opposing team. MW was playing matchups early, and it worked out about as well as it had all year. And then there was Papelbon. He ended up being the gasoline on the fire, both on the field and off it. I trusted Rizzo at the time that Paps wouldn’t be the jerk we all thought he would be. But that trade is a very big -1 for Rizzo’s Rap Sheet. Maybe -2, because that trade may have been the reason Storen tanked.

    As for why Paps got into it with Bryce, who knows? Perhaps Bryce got into Papelbon’s fried chicken stash? At any rate, the team needs to discipline Paps, and hard. He laid hands on a teammate and he instigated the whole thing.

    I was a believer in MW for the longest time but now, after the last few weeks of watching him try to manage the team, he is no longer the guy in my mind. But of course it isn’t exactly easy to find a good manager. What Rizzo does here will be the single most important action by the Nats front office this winter.

    Mark Z., we need a clock ASAP to countdown the days until pitchers and catchers report. This season is over, despite the fact that the Nats still have games to play, because those may not be worth watching. We need to focus on next year so we can rid ourselves of the bad taste left in our mouths by this one.

    • Joe Seamhead - Sep 27, 2015 at 7:20 PM

      How do I say +100%?

  14. JayB - Sep 27, 2015 at 6:45 PM

    NJack and the rest of you who refused to see how dysfunctional this team has been for months may finally pull there heads out of the sand……way way way to late but better than never….Rizzo made the mess by backing a dumb manager choice and then sticking with it after players, media and MLB TV types all pointed out just how stupid MW is……Rizzo owns this…now lets see if he is man enough to clean it up.

    Step one Suspend Pap for the rest of the season
    Step two fire MW today
    Step three go into the off season knowing that his guys are not winners and so he is going to have to make majore changes. These include but are not limited to telling Werth his days as every day player are done. If he wants to play more than 60 games next year he needs to work on a trade with someone. Tell Zim much the same thing but he get 75 games. Next fire the training staff and all coaches except Randy Knoor. Next Make a run at resigning Jordan Z….price is down and he is worth it.

    • Joe Seamhead - Sep 27, 2015 at 7:22 PM

      I seem to remember you liking the MW choice, JayB.

      • JayB - Sep 27, 2015 at 7:44 PM

        You are correct but I was wrong like Rizzo and could see that in the post season moves he made….he is just stupid. I called for him to get fired after game 2 of playoffs last year….you know that too I suspect.

  15. alexva6 - Sep 27, 2015 at 6:47 PM

    “tie game, he’s our closer”

    as if anything else was needed to show how little MW has a feel for the the game at hand

    uneffinbelievable!

    • Nats Fan Zee - Sep 27, 2015 at 7:27 PM

      You said it. I was there and boy am I disgusted. If Papelbon is on this team next year, I will leave the park or turn my TV off when he comes into a game. That clown does not deserve to put on a curly W jersey … He defames the character of the team. I am on the cusp about Matt Williams. My thought was if he manages (if that’s what you call that robotic, non creative inflexible behavior) next year, I would likely not attend any games. My boy won’t like that so the jury is out on that. For sure I’ll not see the 16 – 20 games we average as a family … Not to go see Matt’s sorry act @ a 30% increase in ticket price.

      My wife did tell me yesterday that despite my asking, she did not throw out all my Mets stuff from years ago so I find myself with Jose Reyes & Pedro Martinez shirts. I won’t put them on but I am not going to toss them either … They may come in handy next year if Rizzo maintains the Arizona fraternity.

      BTW, Drew is a head case but he’s our head case …. Much rather have him than the Louisiana lunatic + a bag of balls.

  16. Sonny G 10 - Sep 27, 2015 at 7:14 PM

    I think Randy Knorr might be a good replacement for Matt Williams if he’s fired. I don’t know of anyone else that’s available that would obviously be better.

    • Dm2 - Sep 27, 2015 at 7:28 PM

      Another inexperienced managed? That doesn’t seem like a good idea . And you don’t clean house by promoting from within

    • rmoore446 - Sep 27, 2015 at 8:02 PM

      I rather like Bud Black. But given Randy Knorr’s history with this franchise and the need for a stabilizing figure, I think Randy is the logical choice.

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