PHILADELPHIA -- Jonathan Papelbon walked slowly into the Phillies dugout with his head down and Citizens Bank Park in shock. Minutes later, Kevin Frandsen jubilantly pointed at that same dugout as he started his race to celebration around the basepaths.
Frandsen's pinch-hit, walk-off homer leading off the bottom of the ninth delivered an 8-7 win against the Mets, after the Phillies bullpen made a six-run lead disappear, and Papelbon blew his third save in a week. Ryan Howard (two homers, four RBIs) and the offense gave the bullpen a lead to give up, and Frandsen bailed out his closer.
The home run was Frandsen's first career walk-off shot, and it was a blast that reached the second deck in left field. The utility infielder, who has just 12 career homers, said he was unsure how to properly soak in the moment.
"I watch everyone else do it. I'm always usually where Jimmy [Rollins] was at the front of the plate," Frandsen said. "I was just making sure, because I was the guy that caught Kendry Morales when he broke his leg at home plate [for the Angels in 2010]. I was just making sure, 'Don't jump.' I don't even know. It was awesome."
While Frandsen's heroics allowed the Phillies to avoid their third straight loss, Papelbon and his bullpen mates could not get nine outs before surrendering six runs. Papelbon entered in the ninth with the Phillies ahead, 7-5, but surrendered a solo homer to Jordany Valdespin and then a game-tying single to Daniel Murphy.
It was not all Papelbon's fault, as third baseman Michael Young committed an error in the ninth and center fielder Ben Revere bobbled the ball on Murphy's single, allowing David Wright to score from first on a hit-and-run.
However, Papelbon -- who signed a four-year, $50 million deal with the Phillies in November 2011 -- also forked over two ninth-inning leads to the Nationals on Monday and Wednesday. The Phillies have lost just one of the three games, but Papelbon has blown three saves in four chances after converting his first 13 opportunities.
Manager Charlie Manuel said he thinks his closer is just going through a tough spell, but Papelbon said that he does not feel different this week than he did before.
"I don't feel like I'm in a funk at all," Papelbon said. "There's no reason to sit here and try to figure out what's wrong. I feel like the ball is coming out of my hand good. It's been a pretty confusing week for me."
Prior to Papelbon's woes, Phillies relievers allowed four runs in the seventh inning after starter Jonathan Pettibone left the game with tightness in his lower back. All four of the runs were charged to Michael Stutes, who did not record an out, and Justin De Fratus was the pitcher who gave up a two-run double to Eric Young Jr that made it 7-4.
Pettibone said exiting the game was "precautionary," and he believes he will make his next scheduled start. The rookie made his first quality start in three appearances, and left in position to notch his first win since May 14. But the bullpen -- which also saw regular setup man Mike Adams hit the disabled list with biceps tendinitis on Saturday -- did not help out its starter.
With a lot of inexperienced arms in front of him, Papelbon said he and the other relievers need to keep grinding it out.
"[Baseball is] a game that's tough and it's not going to care if you're struggling or not, or if a bullpen is struggling or not," Papelbon said. "Or whoever is struggling. It doesn't really care."
In building a 7-1 lead, the Phillies were aided heavily by Howard, who had his first multi-homer game since Aug. 30, 2011. The first baseman has 10 homers this season and the havoc Howard wreaked came against Mets starter Dillon Gee, whom he has feasted on throughout his career. With Saturday's production, Howard is now 7-for-15 (.467) lifetime against the righty with six home runs and 14 RBIs.
With the four-RBI afternoon, Howard has driven in 15 runs in June, after just 10 RBIs in May. He is hitting .358 this month.
Howard took some criticism after his production was down throughout the first two months, but he reminded that it's a long season.
"People get so focused on the 'What have you done for me lately?' But it's still the first half of the season," Howard said. "That's why you have averages over 162 games. Some get off to a good start and some get off to average starts. It comes when it comes. Over the course of the season, it's how you ride them out and continue to work through it."
Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.