PHILADELPHIA -- Jonathan Papelbon finally took his turn Monday, but he offered no excuses for his failures.
He allowed a three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning in a 5-2 loss to the Mets at Citizens Bank Park. He had been nearly perfect in his first month with the Phillies, but suffered his first loss to keep his team in its perpetual state of mediocrity, hovering just below or at, but never able to get over the .500 mark.
Papelbon had not pitched since Tuesday in Atlanta. A little rusty, maybe?
"No, not working in five days has nothing to do with it," he said. "It's all about execution."
Some closers insist they miss the adrenaline pitching in non-save situations. Maybe that was the case?
"It's folklore, man," said Papelbon, who has a 2.34 ERA in 148 non-save situations and a 2.36 ERA in 257 save situations. "You go out there and try to do your job and get outs whenever called upon. That's basically what it boils down to. It's got nothing to do with the situation you're put in."
The Phillies are 14-16, stuck in last place in the National League East. There are 132 games remaining in the season, but through the first 30, they have been unable to win more than two games in a row, making it impossible to move up the ladder.
Thirteen times this season the Phillies have had a chance to move to .500. They lost eight of those games.
Six times they have had a chance to move over .500. They lost every time.
"We can get there, but we don't do enough," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said of moving over .500 for the first time since they were 1-0 after Opening Day. "We had real good chance in the seventh and eighth [innings to score], but when you don't take advantage of that, usually something not too good happens to you."
Papelbon had been nearly unhittable before Monday and Roy Halladay bounced back nicely from his disastrous start Wednesday in Atlanta, where he blew a six-run lead in a 15-13 loss to the Braves in 11 innings at Turner Field. He allowed five hits, two runs, one walk and struck out seven in seven innings.
Halladay retired 17 of the first 18 batters he faced before he walked Andres Torres with two outs in the sixth. Kirk Nieuwenhuis followed with a single and David Wright followed with a double down the left-field line. The ball kicked off the fence near the infield tarp and back toward center field, allowing both Torres and Nieuwenhuis to score to tie the game at 2.
It was a heck of a way to lose the lead.
"Those sorts of things happen all the time," Halladay said. "It's a matter of whether or not you overcome it. Really, that's the big thing. You're going to have things that don't go your way. We just came up a little short."
Papelbon took the loss and Halladay gave up the 2-0 lead. They got most of the attention, but the offense failed to do its job again.
The Phillies scored two runs early, but could not tack on late. They had the bases loaded with one out in the seventh inning, but did not score. They had runners on first and second with no outs in the eighth, but did not score.
The Phillies are 3-13 when they score three or fewer runs this season. They are 11-3 when they score four or more runs.
So the offense's inabilities to add on put Papelbon into a tie game in the ninth inning. He walked Ike Davis with one out and allowed a double to Mike Nickeas with two outs to put runner on second and third.
Jordany Valdespin stepped into the batter's box. He just got recalled from Triple-A Buffalo after the Mets placed Ruben Tejada on the disabled list. Papelbon threw Valdespin a 0-1 sinker, and he crushed it for a homer.
"It wasn't really as executed as I would like it to be, but we're in the big leagues, man," Papelbon said. "It's part of the game, you know? It wasn't fully executed. I could have thrown a better pitch. It kind of hung a little bit."
Valdespin reveled in the moment. He had been hitless in six career at-bats in the big leagues before going deep on one of the best closers in baseball.
"It's a great moment," Valdespin said. "When I see Nickeas hit in his turn at-bat, I think, 'I'm the man right now.' I'll hit the ball to the middle. And then you see -- he threw a mistake, and I hit the ball well. This is a great moment from a rookie guy. That's what happened -- see the ball, hit the ball."
A rookie stepped up for the Mets to come up with a big hit at the right time. The Phillies have had too few of those moments this season. That's why they are where they are.