Blanton outduels Johan in Phils' sweep
Righty goes 7 1/3 scoreless innings; Rollins, Utley homer
PHILADELPHIA -- Joe Blanton walked off the mound Sunday to a loud chorus of cheers.
It was the third consecutive game a Phillies starter exited to a standing ovation.
Not coincidentally, it was also the third consecutive game the Phillies won. They defeated Johan Santana and the Mets, 2-0, to sweep the weekend series at Citizens Bank Park.
"Winning three games, the way we did, and kind of putting our foot down and saying, 'Hey, you know what? It's time for us to make the right move and get headed in the right direction' -- that was big," center fielder Shane Victorino said. "Our starting staff did a wonderful job."
The Phillies stumbled into the holiday weekend series losing 14 of 18, winless at Citizens Bank Park since June 14. A 3-6 road trip wasn't much to write home about, either. But they came out crisp against the Mets for their second sweep and third series win at home. The others were against the last-place Nationals.
Relying on a fastball regularly clocked in the 88-91 mph range, Blanton threw strikes and made quick work of New York's depleted lineup. He breezed through 7 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing just four hits and only one runner to reach third base. Closer Brad Lidge punctuated the two-hour, 18-minute affair with a perfect ninth, striking out the side.
And shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who has been lost for most of the season, seems to have found something. For two weeks and 28 at-bats, he managed zero hits. Now he has seven hits over his past four games, hitting .467 with three doubles, four RBIs and two walks.
Rollins had two of Philadelphia's three hits Sunday. He sent the second pitch of the bottom of the first over the left-field wall for his 30th career leadoff homer, giving Blanton a slim margin for error against Santana, a two-time Cy Young Award winner.
"You never know when it might be the last run against a great pitcher like that," said Blanton, who has rebounded from early season struggles by going 3-1 with a 2.63 ERA over his past eight starts.
And he was right -- the Phils would only score once more, on Chase Utley's homer to right in the sixth -- which made the only jam Blanton encountered even more pivotal.
Ahead by one in the top of the sixth, Blanton walked Luis Castillo and could not catch Santana's high bunt, which eluded his dive for a base hit. Alex Cora moved both runners over with a bunt and Daniel Murphy worked an 11-pitch walk. That loaded the bases for David Wright.
Blanton, who is not a strikeout pitcher, knew that he would have to throw sinkers to Wright to induce a double-play ball. It worked as scripted. The Mets' most potent hitter smacked a hard grounder to Utley, who started a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning and preserve the shutout.
The Phillies got the breaks they needed, and made a few of their own. They played error-free defense and featured a few nice grabs, especially by first baseman Ryan Howard
"In these three games, we did all the little things right," Lidge said. "With our talent, if we can do all the little things right also, then, obviously, we're going to be playing really well."
With them playing well, their home clubhouse is no longer a ghost town. Celebratory music returned, as did some good-natured superstition.,
Lidge's beard, for instance, seemed a bit scruffier after back-to-back flawless saves.
"I don't know, leave me alone," he said, smiling. "I don't know what I'm going to do about it. It might look ugly -- that's just the way it is."
Philadelphia had earned a few smiles. The Mets may be reeling from injuries, with Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, J.J. Putz, John Maine and others on the disabled list. But the Phils entered Friday back on their heels and went home Sunday with some swagger -- and some breathing room in the National League East. They are now four games ahead of the Mets and Braves, although the Marlins are still only one game back.
"The big picture is we definitely came up with the big series, especially coming off the horrid pace that we were on," Victorino said. "If we were down, [the Mets] wouldn't be worrying about it if we had guys hurt. That's what it's about. It's about taking that opponent and trying to separate yourself, like we did today."
David Gurian-Peck is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.