Blown saves are always tough to take. A blown save after your team battles back from an early 5-0 deficit, in a game that would have given your opponent a three-game sweep, would have been devastating.
Washington Nationals' closer Jonathan Papelbon made everyone sweat, but eventually got the job done this afternoon in Cincinnati.
Papelbon, 35, took the mound in Great American Ball Park with a 10-8 lead over the Reds, looking for save No. 15 in 17 opportunities, and gave up a single, walk and RBI double that got the home team within one with no one out.
With first base open, Dusty Baker and Co. on the Nationals' bench decided to walk Reds' slugger Jay Bruce -- who hit a three-run home run in the seventh -- intentionally, loading the bases in front of Adam Duvall, who popped out to short.
Zack Cozart went down swinging in the next at bat, chasing a low 0-2 pitch out of the zone inside for out No.2 before Ivan De Jesus, Jr. sent a long fly ball to center for the final out of the game.
While everyone watching was wondering if Papelbon was about to blow his third save of the season, the veteran closer didn't have any doubts.
"I always thought that I was going to be able to get out of it. I never really had a doubt" Papelbon said https://t.co/rg0N7VuSfZ— Jamal Collier (@JamalCollier) June 5, 2016
"I was trying to remain cool and try to think positive," the Nats' skipper told reporters after the game.
"That's what you've got to do. This is similar to one we let get away in Miami, bases loaded, nobody out. And so, boy that was some game.
"Pap got those two key [outs] when he needed them and that long fly ball and we could tell Michael had a bead on it, we just didn't want it to get in the sun, hit off the wall or anything like that. Boy, that was an exciting game.
"We had some guys who had good games. It was sort of a tale of three games, all in one. They jumped us, we jumped them back and then we held on at the end when we were in trouble."
Papelbon told reporters, including MASNSports.com's Byron Kerr, that pitching coach Mike Maddux tried to pump him up when he visited the mound after the base-loading walk to Bruce:
"We talk a lot about coming into ballgames and trying to stay in the moment and always know that you’re only one pitch away from getting out of the inning," Papelbon said. "I think my motto has always been 'bend but don’t break'. He came out there and told me, ‘We bend, but we don’t break.’"
Baker was asked if he had to think hard about loading the bases with the intentional walk?
"No. I mean, yeah, it was a tough call, but that's the only call we had. Bruce has been hot and you don't really want to face Duvall, because he's been hot too. He just kind of walked us off last night. Pap made a bold pitch in a perfect spot. Everybody was just saying -- I told the guys, 'Think positive,' just think we could get it done some kind of way.
"We were calling double play, we were calling everything. Boy, I mean, they've been playing us tough."
Cincinnati took 2 of 3 in the weekend series, after taking 3 of 4 on the road in Coors Field, and they've won six of their last ten overall, but the Nationals managed to avoid getting swept with the win this afternoon.
"They're a hot club right now," Baker said. "They came out of Colorado hot. They're swinging the bats and if we didn't swing the bats we wouldn't have won that game.
"So hopefully our bats will come alive -- starting to come alive for when we get to Chicago."