At long last, closer Jonathan Papelbon is gone.
Despite his stellar work this season, everyone in Phillies Nation seems very happy that the mercurial Papelbon is now the Washington Nationals problem to deal with. The ridiculous contract, the asinine statements, the general “My way or the highway” mentality and, most important, the “soreness” issues, are all a fading memory for Phillies fans.
With Papelbon gone, the Phillies took their shocking 8-1 record since the All-Star break north of the border for a date with the Toronto Blue Jays. And if a save opportunity came up, right-hander Ken Giles was going to be making his debut as the Phillies new closer.
“100-Mile” Giles had been used as the team’s eighth inning setup man for a while now, but with Papelbon finally getting his wish to be traded, Giles knew it was his moment to take center stage in the ninth.
“I knew Pap wanted to be traded and I knew it was only a matter of time. Being a closer feels great. It’s a once in a lifetime dream for me to be a closer. Now it’s my opportunity to show what I’ve got.
“I want to thank Pap for everything he’s done for me and the team. I can’t thank him enough for guiding me through the way of the closer. I think I’m going to be a great closer.”
via CSN Philly.com
When the Phillies took the lead in the fifth inning, Giles started to get mentally ready and his preparedness showed as he closed out the Blue Jays for his first save of the season.
He gave up a single to Edwin Encarnacion to open the inning but that was all she wrote as he got three consecutive outs to close the game and helped the Phillies to a 3-2 win. It brings the ball club’s astonishing post All-Star break record to 9-1 and gave everyone a glimpse of what Giles might be able to do in the closers role on a regular basis.
Giles has effectively been the closer-in-waiting ever since he came up from the minors in June of 2014 with his 100-mile an hour fastball. Now he gets a two-month audition to see if he can fill the role permanently and take his place in the Phillies rebuilding plans going forward. After one game, it’s impossible to know if Giles can fill the role permanently, but all indications are that the position is his to lose.
If nothing else, it seems he has a supporter in Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin, who said after the game:
“We have other choices, but he’s the appropriate guy to give an opportunity to. Let him run with it and I think he’s capable of doing it. The only thing I see different in him from last year is that his slider is not as consistent. If he gets that, he’s going to be tough.”
via CSN Philly.com
If the Phillies keep playing like that have been, it’s a safe bet that Giles will get plenty of opportunities to prove he has the stuff to be the team’s closer for the foreseeable future.