Papelbon not what he used to be

The second appearance of the season was a troubling one for Philadelphia Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon.

For the first time in his career, Papelbon ended a game with a bases-loaded walk, blowing a two-run lead in a 4-3 loss to the Texas Rangers.

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In one-third of an inning, Papelbon allowed three runs, four hits and two walks.

It marked the first time that Papelbon issued consecutive unintentional walks since an April 7, 2010 appearance against the Yankees. In 12 1/3 innings at Rangers Ballpark entering the day, Papelbon had an 0.73 ERA, 18 strikeouts and two walks.

Papelbon had all sorts of location issues on Wednesday, which was very unusual for him. He threw only six of 21 pitches in the strike zone. It marked the first time in the last four seasons that Papelbon threw at least 20 pitches in a game and threw fewer than 30 percent in the strike zone. And the last two Rangers hitters- Donnie Murphy and Shin-Soo-Choo, weren’t chasing the ones that were well wide.

Also problematic for Papelbon was his fastball velocity, which averaged 90.9 mph down from 91.6 in his season debut on Opening Day.

Papelbon’s velocity has trended downwards the last two seasons, from 93.8 in 2012 to 91.9 in 2013 to 91.2 in two outings so far this season. Papelbon has never had serious velocity issues to start a season. His fastball averaged 93 mph or faster in April of 2009, 2010 and 2011.

With the decline in fastball velocity has come a decline with the splitter as well. He averaged just under 86 mph with it on Wednesday, down from its usual 88 to 89 mph range, when Papelbon was in his prime.