With a 50-94 record coming into Wednesday’s game, not many people have struggled against the Nationals. Count Joe Blanton as one of the very few who have.
Blanton went into the middle game of the three-game set sporting an ERA above seven versus the cellar dwellers. In his last outing, which happened to be against Livan Hernandez, he allowed a season high eight earned, and did not make it out of the fifth.
Those previous struggles turned into a six-inning shutout against the lowly Nats, as Blanton fanned seven in the Phillies 6-1 win. Things started rather shaky for Big Joe, as he seemed unable to locate any of his pitches early on. With four walks in all, plus five hits, Blanton did a fine job with damage control, keeping the Nationals from touching home plate.
Chan Ho Park and Ryan Madson then followed up with scoreless frames in the seventh and eighth innings, respectively, before Tyler Walker allowed the lone run of the ball game in the ninth. The three relievers sealed it up for Blanton’s 10th victory of the season. The run scored by Washington was the first given up by Walker since July 29, skyrocketing his ERA to 1.93. However, the Phils pitching staff as a whole narrowly missed recording three consecutive shutouts for the first time since August of 1969.
On the chilly, damp night at Citizens Bank Park, the flags were moving in from right field, meaning the lefty pull hitters would have a tough time reaching the seats. The whipping winds were evident throughout as routine fly balls became anything but.
The Phillies jump started their evening with a rarely seen double steal, as Ryan Howard successfully stole second, while Chase Utley capitalized on the mistake by catcher Jesus Flores, scoring run number one. It was Utley’s 20th steal of the year, giving him 20 home runs and 20 steals for the first time in his career.
In the sixth inning, another fielding blunder by Washington led to Raul Ibanez scoring on a near double play off the bat of Pedro Feliz. The 124th error of the Nats season made it 2-0 Phils.
As the Phillies continued to refine their small ball approach, Jayson Werth decided it was time for a change. Without a homer since Game 1 of the doubleheader on Sunday, the Phillies used the long ball to break Wednesday’s game wide open.
With the bases loaded in the seventh following an Utley hit by pitch, a Howard intentional walk, and another walk to Raul Ibanez, Werth used that jet stream out to left to his advantage. He nailed a 2-2 offering from Jason Bergmann deep into the left-center field seats, giving the Phillies plenty to work with for the final two innings.
And finally, the bullpen took advantage of the situation, leaving the heart stopping antics at home for at least one night. As the Phillies moved their record to 14-3 against Washington this year, it was all about Joe Blanton and his about face from a week ago, and Jayson Werth’s continued evolution as one of the best power hitters in the game. A sweep would sure look sweet this late in September. Tomorrow, Cole Hamels will try to make it happen.