Papelbon needs to mix up his pitches
September, 10, 2008
Jonathan Papelbon's overreliance on his fastball finally caught up to him against Tampa Bay on Tuesday night in the Red Sox's 5-4 loss against the Rays. After throwing 14 fastballs and nothing else Tuesday, he started left-handed pinch-hitter Dan Johnson with five fastballs, including a 3-1 pitch down the middle that Johnson just missed. Yet, despite the obvious call for a splitter with a 3-2 count on a left-handed hitter, Papelbon went back to the fastball, and Johnson -- already starting his bat early on the previous pitch -- took it out to deep right-center. Even after the home run, the mono-pitch approach continued. Willy Aybar saw four fastballs, hit the last one hard, but lined out to center. Fernando Perez, 1-for-10 in the majors, got two fastballs and tagged the second one -- 95 mph and up -- nearly taking it over the Green Monster (and showing more opposite-field power than I ever thought he had). Dioner Navarro saw two fastballs and doubled Perez home on the second one. Over two nights, Papelbon threw 30 straight fastballs before throwing any other type of pitch; he eventually threw one splitter and one slider Tuesday, but well after the damage had been done.