WASHINGTON — Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon quickly became Orioles Enemy No. 1 on Wednesday night when he threw a fastball near Manny Machado's head and then bounced another one off his shoulder in the ninth inning of the Orioles' 4-3 victory at Nationals Park, but it wasn't like he was beloved figure in Baltimore to begin with.
During a career spent mostly with the Boston Red Sox, Papelbon had more saves (32) against the Orioles than he did against any other major league team. He added two more in interleague play after he signed a free agent contract with the Philadelphia Phillies and came into Wednesday night's game with a 2.14 career ERA against the O's.
That might be reason enough to rankle the Orioles and their fans, but Papelbon's unorthodox mound presence also rubs opponents the wrong way.
Of course, going upstairs twice against one of the most popular Orioles stars -- and one of the best young players in the game -- certainly added a new layer of animosity and left open the possibility of renewed hostilities in today's rain-makeup series finale.
Papelbon was defiant afterward, not admitting to hitting Machado on purpose but not really denying it either.
"All I can tell you is I'm trying to go out there and pitch and do my thing out there, and that's all that really matters,'' he said. "Whether they want to get somebody tomorrow, that's up to them."
Papelbon also may have had some unhappy flashbacks after Machado's game-changing home run off Max Scherzer in the seventh inning forced him to watch the Orioles celebrate at the expense of his team. He was on the mound for the infamous "Curse of the Andino" game in which the Red Sox were dramatically eliminated from postseason consideration in the last game of the 2011 season by an Orioles team with nothing else to play for.
It would be his last game in a Red Sox uniform and his last game in the American League. He signed with the Phillies before the 2012 season and was traded to the Nats in July.