Thursday, May 24, 2012

Phillies' bats explode in win over Cards

ST. LOUIS – The Phillies will enter Memorial Day weekend in last place.
They have not been in last place this deep into a season since 2005, Charlie Manuel’s first year as Phils manager.
The ’05 Phillies had the likes of Mike Lieberthal, David Bell and Kenny Lofton as regulars. Of course, the current roster is filled with similar, non-All-Stars, too.
But the rotation from seven seasons ago was Jon Lieber, Brett Myers, Cory Lidle, Randy Wolf and Vicente Padilla. There wasn’t a Cy Young Award winner among them.

The ’05 rotation finished with a 4.20 ERA, ninth in the National League.
With Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels atop the current rotation, pitching should never be a problem. Losing streaks should be near impossible.
But coming off an April that saw the offense struggle and the bullpen crumble, it’s been the starting pitching that has surprisingly mediocre in May. For the second straight outing, Joe Blanton couldn’t make it out of the fifth inning on Thursday night in St. Louis.
Thankfully for Manuel and Co., the offense saved their starter and survived a marathon 10-9 victory over the defending World Champion Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
“We had them all the way, son,” Manuel joked afterward of a game that saw Blanton cough up a 6-0 lead. “We played it out. Suspense is always good – as long as it comes out all right.”
Rookie Freddy Galvis and pinch hitter Mike Fontenot hit back-to-back, two-out run-scoring doubles to help snap a 7-7 tie in the sixth inning and Ty Wigginton socked a solo home run two innings later for an all-important insurance run.
Although the Cards crept back with single runs in the seventh and eighth, Jonathan Papelbon shut the door on the Phils’ second straight win by recording his 13th save in 13 chances in the ninth. Tyler Greene hit a loud, long out to deep center field with the game-tying run on first base to end the game.
“There was some fingernail biting,” Manuel said. “(Pitching coach) Rich Dubee went running for the phone to get to the closer.”
The closer and the late, clutch offense shouldn’t have been necessary. The Phillies new-look lineup, with Carlos Ruiz hitting cleanup for the second straight game and Jimmy Rollins back at the leadoff spot after missing three games on paternity leave, gave Blanton plenty of support early.
The Phils gave Blanton a 6-0 lead through the first two innings. Galvis’ two-run single in the first and Shane Victorino’s two-run double in the second – both with two outs – keyed an offense that knocked St. Louis starter Jake Westbrook out of the game in the fourth.
But like Cliff Lee against the Cardinals in Game 2 of the National League Division Series in October, Blanton managed to give the comfy lead back.
After throwing two scoreless innings to begin the game, Blanton blew up in the fourth. Carlos Beltran, David Freese and Yadier Molina hit consecutive, two-out, run-scoring hits to turn a 6-0 deficit into 6-4.
Two innings later, holding a 7-4 lead, Blanton was cooked.
The fifth inning began with a solo home run from Matt Holliday. Beltran followed with a double.
Two batters later, Molina launched a game-tying two run home run to send the 40,135 Cards fans into a frenzy – and, later in the night, one into a streaking fit in center field. Molina’s home run ended Blanton’s night.
“He was elevating some fastballs and getting hit,” Manuel said. “It looked to me like they’re were pretty patient with him. They were looking for balls they wanted to hit, and that’s a good way to approach hitting. Holliday’s home run: he was very patient, waited for a good ball to hit and hit it.”
For the second straight start, Blanton was gone after 4 1/3 innings. After sporting a 2.81 ERA in his first seven starts of the season, Blanton has a 13.50 ERA in his last two.
Blanton, a free agent at the end of the year and seen as possible trade bait this spring, hasn’t done anything to help his value in his last two trips to the mound. He has allowed 14 runs (13 earned) on 19 hits, including six home runs, in his last 8 2/3 innings.
The Phils All-Star laden rotation is a pedestrian 8-6 with a 3.86 ERA in 23 starts this month. Take away Cole Hamels (4-0, 1.75 ERA in five starts) and those numbers are downright ugly.
The non-Hamels contingent of the rotation – Halladay, Lee, Blanton, Vance Worley and Kyle Kendrick – are 4-6 with a 4.51 ERA and 21 home runs allowed in 18 starts.
“We’re talented, we’re going to get better,” Manuel said. “I look for Halladay and Lee to definitely get better. If we can get them some runs, they’re going to get better.”
An offense that banged out a season-high 18 hits saved Blanton on Thursday. But for the Phils to climb out of the basement of the National League East, and stay out of it, they’re going to need all of their starting pitchers to return to form.


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