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Papelbon's blown save opens door for Fister


Papelbon's blown save opens door for Fister

PHILADELPHIA — Jonathan Papelbon has been through this rodeo before. He’s been saving games — and blowing saves — for 11 years now. So don’t expect him to get too caught up with what happened Monday night in his old stomping grounds.

Though it certainly helped that his Nationals teammates picked him up during a wild, 8-7, 11-inning victory over the Phillies.

“I’ve done that plenty of times in my career,” Papelbon said. “I’m very familiar with that situation. But at the end of the day, you play to win the game. And regardless of how it unfolds, you win the game it’s a good day at the office.”

Doug Fister, on the other hand, had never been through this scenario before, at least not in the big leagues. The veteran right-hander did notch four saves in 2006 for the Class A Everett AquaSox. That probably didn’t quite prepare him for the bottom of the 11th inning at Citizens Bank Park, needing to hold the Phillies scoreless to preserve his team’s win despite the fact he hadn’t appeared in any game in 13 days.

“It’s nice to get in there and pitch,” Fister said. “It’s one of those things when your name is called, three outs are three outs, no matter what the score is.”

RELATED Nationals beat Phillies 8-7 in 11th inning of low-stakes game

This is where the Nationals’ season now resides, with Papelbon blowing a save in the bottom of the 10th, then Fister needing to record a save in the bottom of the 11th to ensure his team didn’t fall 10 1/2 games behind the Mets in an NL East race that is all but mathematically over.

Strange times, indeed.

The Nationals acquired Papelbon from the Phillies six weeks ago specifically to close out games like this. Things just never went according to plan. Papelbon got only six save opportunities during those six weeks, the Nats unable to consistently get to the ninth inning with a lead.

It was only fitting, though, that the veteran closer would find himself on the mound for this one, his first game back in Philadelphia since the trade, greeted as you might expect from a small but emotional crowd of 15,402. Papelbon, who earlier in the afternoon didn’t mince words when saying he didn’t believe the Phillies as an organization were trying to win, was immediately greeted by ex-teammate Freddy Galvis, who launched a hanging split-finger fastball over the right-field wall for a game-tying homer.

It not only was Papelbon’s first blown save as a National, but his first blown save as anything this season, actually his first blown save in exactly one calendar year.

“Really? I don’t keep track of any of that,” he said when informed of that factoid.

Such is the required mentality of the closer, who has to possess the ability to erase all previous memories, no matter good or bad. Papelbon takes particular pride in that.

“I’ve been through a lot in my career,” he said. “I’ve had many things come up, adversity overcome. I’ve been in just about every situation you can imagine. Even tonight, I’ve been through that situation so many times before. It is what it is. When I take the mound, you’re talking to a different individual than you are right now. Two different people.”

Fister has no closer experience to rely on. He barely has any relief experience, having only been moved to the bullpen last month when rookie Joe Ross out-pitched him to earn the final spot in the Nationals’ rotation.

The veteran right-hander has tried to adjust along the way, seeking advice from teammates. But it has been a strange existence, never knowing when he might be asked to pitch, or for how long.

“I know I’m out there in the bullpen and I’m there as a tool for them,” he said. “But it is rough sitting there for a long time and not getting in a game. But when it comes down to it, when your name’s called you’ve got to be ready. That’s kind of where we were tonight.”

The Nationals had already used six different relievers before the 11th inning, leaving manager Matt Williams with few conventional options at that point. In the end, Williams decided to go with Fister, even if he never had been used to close out a game.

“We’ve got to go to Doug there,” Williams said. “He’s the one with the most experience. And he did a nice job for us.”

Fister did get into some quick trouble, walking Cameron Rupp to lead off the inning. But he bounced right back to strike out both Andres Blanco and Odubel Herrera before getting Galvis to fly out to left and end the game.

“Honestly, I was approaching it the same way as I do a start,” he said. “I was literally telling myself: ‘One pitch at a time.'”

When he returned to the clubhouse, Fister was greeted by teammates (who gave him a beer shower) and clubhouse manager Mike Wallace (who gave him the ball used to record his first career save).

“Everybody was happy for him,” left fielder Jayson Werth said. “He got a nice beer shower when he got in here. I don’t even think he’s pitched in maybe two weeks, or something like that. Everybody’s happy for him. He’s a great guy, and he’s a big part of this club. So it was good to see.”

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May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

The start of spring training is a glimmer of hope during the cold of winter. It means warm weather, cold beers and hot dogs at the ballpark are coming your way.

It's our first chance to get a taste of how our favorite team is shaping up for the 2018 season, and for those who are not quite into just the game itself, betting odds.

CG Technology, a Las Vegas sportsbook operator, has set the 2018 odds for each MLB team.

Specifically, how are things looking for the local teams?


Washington Nationals: 91 1/2 wins

The 2018 season is looked at by many as the last World Series run for some time for the Nationals and their core group of players. Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Gio Gonzalez will become free agents after the 2018 season in addition to general manager and President of Baseball Operations, Mike Rizzo.

In 2017, the team won 97 games and went on to win the NL East, but couldn't make it past the first-round of the National League Division Series. In 2018, Vegas is giving the Nats 7/2 odds of taking the National League title. They are just behind the Chicago Cubs, who knocked them out of contention last season, at 4/1 odds.

As far as winning the World Series, Vegas is giving the guys an 8/1 chance of their first title, tied with the Cubs.

Baltimore Orioles: 77 1/2 wins

The O's finished the 2017 season with 75 wins, which could be considered somewhat of an accomplishment considering their pitching resources.

The same problem will occur in 2018 as the organization hasn't signed any new starting pitchers. Vegas is giving them 50/1 odds of taking the American League title and 100/1 odds of winning the World Series.

The lack of depth in their rotation will come back to bite them as division rival New York Yankees have 5/1 odds of winning the World Series and the Red Sox have 10/1 odds.

A below average season should be expected.

A few other standouts, good and bad, include the Miami Marlins at 500/1 odds of winning the World Series, the Kansas City Royals at 200/1 and current champions, the Houston Astros, at 6/1 odds.


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Former Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested with more than 40 pounds of suspected cocaine


Former Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested with more than 40 pounds of suspected cocaine

SAN DIEGO — Former All-Star pitcher Esteban Loaiza has been arrested on suspicion of trafficking drugs after packages containing a white powder believed to be cocaine were found at a home he rented in Southern California, officials said Monday.

The 46-year-old former Major League Baseball player was booked Friday on charges involving the possession, transport and sale of 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of suspected cocaine worth an estimated $500,000, according to the San Diego Sheriff's Department.

Loaiza played for numerous teams between 1995 and 2008, starting with the Pittsburgh Pirates and concluding with his second stint with the Chicago White Sox. He had a 21-9 record with the Chicago White Sox in 2003 and started in the All-Star Game that year.


He also played one season for the Washington Nationals in 2005 — the team's inaugural season in D.C. after the franchise changed from the Montreal Expos. During his one season in Washington, Loaiza finished with a 12-10 record adn a 3.77 ERA over 34 games played that year.

It was not immediately known if Loaiza had hired a lawyer and the former player could not be reached to comment. He was being held Monday for lack of $200,000 bail pending a court appearance on Wednesday.

Loaiza's agent, John Boggs, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he had no information about the arrest and that he has not spoken to Loaiza recently. He said that Loaiza had called his office early last week but Boggs was unavailable at the time.

"I am shocked and saddened by the news and had no indication he would ever be in this type of situation," Boggs said in a text to the newspaper. "I don't know how he would get himself involved in this, so it's difficult to even comment on it."

Officers stopped Loaiza for a minor traffic infraction Friday after he left the home he started renting recently in the Pacific coast community of Imperial Beach, along the U.S.-Mexico border. Authorities had the vehicle under surveillance on suspicion it was used for smuggling drugs.

When they searched the vehicle, they found a sophisticated compartment used to conceal contraband, authorities said. That led them to obtain a search warrant for Loaiza's rental home, where they found the packages of drugs, according to investigators.

The packages containing a white powder are still being tested but are believed to be cocaine, said San Diego Sheriff's Lt. Jason Vickery.

Loaiza was born in Tijuana, Mexico and was married for two years to the late Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera. She filed for divorce shortly before she died in a plane crash in 2012.

The 43-year-old Rivera was known as the "Diva de la Banda" and died as her career was peaking. She was perhaps the most successful female singer in grupero, a male-dominated Mexico regional style, sold more than 15 million records, and moved into acting and reality television.

Loaiza sued the aircraft's owners in 2014 for wrongful death but her relatives accused him of trying to profit from her death. He denied the accusations and later retracted his lawsuit.

NBC Sports Washington contributed to this report.