The thought was nice while it lasted all the way until the bottom of the ninth inning for the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday. Up until then, holding a 4-1 lead, a sweep of the New York Mets appeared to be a certainty. Then Antonio Bastardo, who is usually used as a left-handed relief specialist for one or two hitters, tried his hand as a closer and came up with the Mother’s Day of all blown saves.
Bastardo should be Public Enemy No. 1 in Philadelphia today, but that role has to be reserved for closer Jonathan Papelbon. As far as weak excuses go, Papelbon removed himself from being available prior to the 5-4 loss to the Mets because he had a “sore neck.”
In a town like Philadelphia, a blue-collar town where people go to work with sore necks every day, that excuse won’t stand the test of reliability because first of all, Papelbon does not pitch with his neck and secondly, he should have been able to tough out an inning with a 4-1 lead for the sake of his teammates.
Bastardo’s inning was pretty weak, but Papelbon’s excuse was weaker. Papelbon pitched well in recording saves both Friday and Saturday night for the Phillies, and his neck did not seem strained at all. Plus, the Phillies have a day off on Monday and if the neck needed some recovery time, Monday was the day for it, not Sunday.
Papelbon might have said he had a sore neck, but the excuse has to be a pain in the neck for Sandberg, whose team really could have used a three-game sweep in New York before heading home for Philadelphia. Now Papelbon has set himself up for some serious and well-deserved booing during this homestand.