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Scripting: Marlins 5, Phillies 4

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In which Johnathan Papelbon rescripts himself, the fans, and today's game.

If only he knew what Papelbon had in store.
If only he knew what Papelbon had in store.
Rich Schultz

In the bullpen, Jonathan Papelbon stands before Ken Giles. Papelbon twists at the waist and extends his arms as he prepares for another save opportunity in what has been a disappointing string of uncompetitive seasons. Giles watches Papelbon warming up and the two chatter away. Giles hopes to learn as much as he can about relief pitching and succeeding as a closer.

Papelbon: You know I like to win. I talk about it a lot. Chase told me to shut up about it because everyone wants to win and I just sound like a 3-year-old who lost a toy when I complain about losing. But if you want to win games you have to want it so badly it comes out of your mouth. Like a rabid dog or something. Otherwise the pressure will crush you.

Giles: [chuckling] I don't like talking that much. [pauses] Wait, did you just compare yourself to a rabid dog?

Paps: [shakes his head] Listen up. I like to win. [starts throwing with bullpen catcher] But this series has been embarrassing for the Marlins. Just 1 run in each game so far. 3 runs in 27 innings. We just aren't that good. We don't deserve to do that to a team that would be competing for a playoff spot if their best pitcher didn't have his arm fall off at the elbow. [Giles gazes at Papelbon, wondering whether Papelbon is exaggerating or really believes that's what happened to Jose Fernandez.] I think I might groove some pitches. Give 'em a shot at scoring some runs. Strike outs are fascist, right? [Papelbon winks.]

Giles: [still shuddering] Well, you know we might be competing too if not for injured pitchers. I mean you could say that about a lot of teams every year. Competition is fierce, man. [pauses, realizes what Papelbon said last] Ummm. If you didn't come here to lose, why would you take it easy on another team?

Paps: [smiling] Hey, I've got a sense of fairness too. I'm not just a rabid dog. And besides if we beat up on the Marlins they will get closer to us in the reverse standings and then we won't have a protected draft pick, like when we signed me. I hear all the time about how terrible that decision was and that I wasn't worth the draft we gave up. It's gotta be pretty important to the fans and I see where they're coming from. I didn't come here to lose. If draft picks mean winning, let's get some draft picks. Hey, I tried to get traded so we could have some draft picks. I'm really just trying to help the team.

Giles: Yeah, but, what about Buchanan. You've been a great mentor to us relievers. But Buchanan pitched well and getting him a win would really help his confidence. He had the changeup working and got tons of groundballs. Managing contact isn't that easy. You know he's been much better than all those yahoos like the guy putting words in mouth right now thought. If you want to show some sympathy, show it him, eh?

Paps: Yeah, Buchanan pitched well. He should be happy with his job well done. Wins are meaningless anyway. They depend on guys like you and me being good and offenses scoring. No pitcher should care about wins. I'm sure Buchanan will be fine with this. He'd probably even encourage me. He's such a swell chap. By the way, I know you don't like talking but don't let people put words in your mouth. Better to talk constantly than let someone talk for you.

Giles: It's not as up to me as you think. Anyway, what about the fans who came to the game? They're going to be upset. They like to boo here in Philly and sometimes even throw things. Maybe let's let sleeping dogs lie. They might be rabid.

Paps: Hey, rabid dogs are my trope. Lay off. [pauses. cocks head left and right. jumps as ball returns from catcher.] The fans, I already covered that. If they really think all those things that they use to pillory me [Giles does double take at the word 'pillory'], then they won't care about losing this one game, even if it is a 3-run lead in the top of the 9th at home and the offseason abyss scurries forth. All I ever hear is that these games are meaningless. They won't boo.

Giles: All right, man. But they were a little disgruntled by your reaction to the combined no-hitter. I really think they are just looking for reasons to be mad at you. Are you sure you can take it when they come after your again?

Paps: [grunts. stops throwing] Yeah. It'll be fine. Just trust me. I've been doing this a long time and know how it's done. So, what do you think? Tie game, free baseball? Or straight up blow save loss?

Giles: Neither?

Paps: Let's go with free baseball.

Papelbon heads for the mound. After a grooved fastball ripped for a double, he changes his mind and bears down. A walk and few softly hit singles later. The game is tied. Getting agitated, he throws a wild pitch. No free baseball today.

Fangraph of a horrifying about face:


Source: FanGraphs