Philly Sports Live

What a relief for Phillies, Mets, Nats on Opening Day

NL East closers Jonathan Papelbon of the Phillies, Brad Lidge of the Nationals and Frank Francisco of the Mets stole the Opening Day thunder, each helping new teams breath a sigh of relief. In fact, no fewer than five teams benefited from fresh faces at the back end of their bullpens on Thursday.

Each of the new NL East closers succeeded under pressure. Papelbon, in his Phillies debut, and Francisco each closed out 1-0 games, while Lidge, one of the ninth-inning specialists Papelbon replaced, nailed down a 2-1 victory for the Nationals.

While the Blue Jays and Reds also prospered, thanks in part to new closers finishing their contests, it wasn’t such a good day for established closers in the AL Central, where both Detroit’s Jose Valverde and Cleveland’s Chris Perez blew saves. Incumbent Cubs closer Carlos Marmol suffered a ninth-inning loss.

But back to the Day One success stories:

  • Jonathan Papelbon, Phillies: The former Red Sox closer mowed down the Pirates, finishing off Roy Halladay’s two-hit masterpiece. Meanwhile, Boston, feeling the loss of closer Andrew Bailey to a thumb injury, lost in the ninth at Detroit.
  • Brad Lidge, Nationals: The former Phillies closer struck out two, pitching the ninth inning of Washington’s 2-1, come-from-behind victory at Wrigley Field.
  • Frank Francisco, Mets: Francisco, who saved 17 games for Toronto last season, pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to close out New York’s 1-0 victory against the Braves.
  • Sergio Santos, Blue Jays: Toronto’s new closer didn’t get credit for a save, but he got the final two outs of his team’s 7-4, 16-inning victory at Cleveland. The Jays had rallied to tie with three runs in the ninth against Perez.
  • Sean Marshall, Reds: Cincinnati, forced to juggle after Ryan Madson’s elbow injury in spring training, received a double-dose of good news at the back end of their bullpen. Marshall, formerly the setup man to Marmol with the Cubs, pitched a 1-2-3 ninth after Aroldis Chapman set down the Marlins in the eighth inning of a 4-0 win.