By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun.
PHILADELPHIA—If you’re looking for signs that the Phillies miserable 2014 season can’t end soon enough, the bizarre ending to Sunday’s game certainly provided evidence of that.
For the eight innings, it looked like the Phillies were on their way to a three-game sweep of the Florida Marlins. They came into the ninth inning with a 4-1 lead and closer Jonathan Papelbon on the mound to put the game on ice. He had converted 14 straight save opportunities since July 24.
But the disaster struck Papelbon and the Phillies in the ninth inning as the Marlins scored four runs to steal away a 5-4 win over the Phils, who head on their final road trip of the season by losing a game they should have won.
It was typical of a year where the Phillies can’t seem to get things right on a regular basis and the way this game is just another example of why the Phils are at the bottom of the National League East standings.
Papelbon’s exit from the game after the Phillies surrendered the lead in the ninth inning became the theatre of the absurd.
As he was coming off the field, Papelbon was being booed loudly by the 30, 201 fans gathered at Citizen’s Bank Park. Before leaving the field, Papelbon grabbed his crouch, making what could be interpreted as an obscene gesture to the fans.
That prompted second-base umpire Joe West to eject Papelbon from the game.
“That’s what I saw and so did the plate umpire,” West said. “You can’t do things like that. The whole thing started because the fans booed him and he made an obscene gesture. He had no business doing that. He’s got be more professional than that.”
Papelbon said told reporters after the game he was adjusting his equipment and was not making an obscene gesture to the crowd.
“By no means was I directing anything at any fans,” Papelbon said. “I have a four-year and a five-year-old son and a daughter. I am not out here doing inappropriate things. Come on this is baseball. I think Joe (West) just took something to a whole new level that didn’t need to go there. It is unfortunate that he took it there because by no means did it mean to be like that.”
Having played baseball myself, I can see it where he might have been adjusting his protective cup. However, I think he should have waited until he got in the dugout. Quite frankly, I think he did it on purpose out of the emotion of blowing a save and getting booed by the crowd.
Things became even more intense when Papelbon and West got into heated argument after Papelbon was ejected. West grabbed Papelbon’s jersey and tossed him out of the way before first base umpire Marty Foster broke the two up.
“Joe had no right to grab me by any means so I will file a complaint for that for sure,” Papelbon said.
West said the altercation between he and Papelbon started when he came to the Phillies dugout to toss him out of the game.
“I told him ‘you’ve got to go,’ “ West said. “And then he charged out of the dugout and his bumped into my hat and I grabbed him and I said, ‘Get off of me.’”
Throughout this season, the Phillies have had games where one aspect of their game was going strong while others have broken down to cause them to lose.
On Sunday, the Phillies scored enough runs to win the game. They took a 1-0 lead in the third inning on an RBI single by third baseman Maikel Franco. Miami tied the game in the fourth on a solo homer by second baseman Kiki Hernandez.
The Phils took the lead in the fourth inning when left fielder Domonic Brown hit into a double play with the bases loaded to drive in one run. Catcher Carlos Ruiz had an RBI single in the same inning to give his team a 3-1 lead.
The Phillies got an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth when centerfielder Ben Revere scored on a fielder’s choice by second baseman Chase Utley.
Meanwhile, Phillies starting pitcher David Buchanan had a solid outing, allowing just one run on five hits in six and a third innings. He had strike outs and one walk. He threw 89 pitches.
The Phillies set up men in the bullpen—Antonio Bastardo and Justin De Fratus did their part in stopping the Marlins offense and held them no runs and no hits.
But just when it looked like the Phillies were clicking on all cylinders in this game, they shot themselves in the foot again with a bad outing by a closer who had problems leaving the ball across the middle of the plate.
It’s been that kind of a year.