Saturday, May 19, 2012

Red Sox rock Blanton, get even with Phillies

PHILADELPHIA – Matched up against potent Boston Red Sox lineup, Joe Blanton was overmatched.
In the second inning, Joe Blanton gave up a leadoff home run. The next batter singled.
Two more singles. Grand slam.
Blanton was gone after four innings. He gave up nine runs on 13 hits in his worst start as a Phillies pitcher.
But that game was nearly two years ago, on June 12, 2010 at Fenway Park.
Blanton nearly matched it with what was easily his worst start of 2012 at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday night.

Beginning with a leadoff home run from Mike Aviles to begin the game, Blanton was beaten up to the tune of seven runs in 4 1/3 innings of an ugly 7-5 loss to the Red Sox. Blanton served up a career-high four home runs.
“I just threw a lot of pitches down the middle tonight,” Blanton said, “and it's not good results when you do that.”
The loss snapped Blanton’s three-game winning streak and ended the Phils’ season-high streak at six. Entering the day with a chance to leap frog the New York Mets in the National League East, the Phillies (21-20) remain in last place, a place they’ve called home for two straight weeks.
The Red Sox, who reside in last place in the American League East, wasted little time playing batting practice with Blanton.
Blanton struck out two batters in a 1-2-3 third inning. On either side of that frame were a lot of Red Sox base runners.
After Aviles put the Sox up 1-0 in the first, Boston put two more on the board in the second, when Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Sweeney began the inning with back-to-back hits and Blanton helped them around the bases with a throwing error.
In the fourth, Blanton allowed back-to-back home runs to begin the inning. After rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks deposited his fifth home run in 16 major league games into the seats in right center, Saltalamacchia followed by hitting one in the same section, only several rows deeper to make it a 5-1 game.
“It's one of those games where you throw close pitches and they don't go your way and it seems like every other pitch is down the middle and gets hit hard,” Blanton said. “It was just one of those days."
In the bottom half of the inning, the Phils rallied and Blanton’s night nearly came to an end. With on run in, one runner on, one out and eight-hole hitter Freddy Galvis up, Pete Orr emerged from the dugout and entered the on-base circle in place of Blanton.
But after Galvis hit his second home run in as many games, and third of the season, to make it a 5-4 game, Blanton was sent back out to hit. He would ground out and Jimmy Rollins followed by striking out to end the fourth inning.
“When Freddy homered, it’s 5-4 and it’s still early in the game (so) I sent him back out there,” manager Charlie Manuel explained. “I felt like he still had some left. I had confidence in him going back out there and pitching an inning or two.”
With the Phillies back in the game, Blanton still couldn’t get on track. Dustin Pedroia led off the fifth with a single and David Ortiz followed with a booming, two-run home run to dead center as the Red Sox padded their lead to 7-4.
Two batters later, after allowing his eighth hit in 4 1/3 innings, Blanton exited.
The defeat was Blanton’s first since April 22. In between defeats, he was 3-0 with a 2.10 ERA.
But on Saturday, Blanton allowed as many runs as he had in his previous four starts combined (seven).
Despite Blanton’s dud, the Phillies had ample opportunities to collect their seventh straight win. They out-hit the Red Sox 14-11.
Red Sox lefty Jon Lester, who came into the night having one earned run in three career starts against the Phillies, exited a 7-4 game after six innings. Like Blanton, he gave up eight hits.
Facing a mishmash Boston bullpen that included Vicente Padilla – he must have heard it was Pat Burrell Retirement Night – the Phils offensive fired blanks.
In their last five innings, the Phillies put 12 runners on base with a walk and 11 hits. They scored just once.
The Phillies were 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
“We hit. I felt like our hitting was good all night,” Manuel said. “At the same time, we had a chance to win the game and we left 11 guys on base.”
Shane Victorino, who had a hit in each of his previous three at-bats, ended a bases-loaded, eighth-inning rally when he popped up to short on the first pitch he saw from Alfredo Alceves.
“I would swing at that every single time; It just beat me,” Victorino said of a 94-mile-per–hour cutter over the heart of the plate. “I tip my hat to him. I went up there looking for a cutter. I got the pitch I wanted and he just beat me.”
The Phils’ offense was also victimized by a highlight reel-worthy defensive play during that stretch.
With runners on first and second and two outs in the seventh, Carlos Ruiz crushed a ball to the gap in right-center. But Boston center fielder Ryan Sweeney broke out into a full gallop and made a full-extension, diving catch to rob Ruiz of extra-bases and the Phillies of two runs.
“A tremendous play,” Manuel said. “Sometimes you’re having a bad night at the plate offensively but you can win the game with defense,” Victorino said. “Sweeney’s catch right there exemplifies a position where you make a defensive play that turns the game, turns the tide.”


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