Four go deep for Phillies in finale rout
Blanton beneficiary of 13 base hits to pick up seventh win
PHILADELPHIA -- The home runs keep on coming. So do the home wins.
Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez all hit two-run shots Sunday, and Joe Blanton extended his two months of dominance, as the Phillies beat the Cardinals, 9-2, for their fifth straight series victory at Citizens Bank Park.
With a 5-2 homestand, the Phillies improved to a season-high 16 games over .500. They have won 14 of their past 16 in Philadelphia and have 138 home runs, by far the most in the National League. Colorado is second with 113 through Saturday.
"You kind of feed off of what everyone else is doing," said Ibanez, whose 26 homers trail only Albert Pujols. "It's definitely a lot of fun to be a part of. ... You have the confidence that the guy behind you is just as good or better, and the guy in front is just as good."
Indeed, winning a three-game set that could foreshadow a playoff matchup, Philadelphia's lineup was clicking from top to bottom. If the Phillies manage to acquire an ace before Friday's non-waiver deadline, they will be definitive NL favorites.
Center fielder Shane Victorino had his 37 multi-hit game of the season and has reached base safely in eight of his past 10 plate appearances.
Rollins, who picked up a grand slam and five RBIs on Saturday, seems to have found his stroke. He homered in consecutive games for the first time since 2007, when he hit 30 en route to the National League Most Valuable Player Award.
Howard took a 2-2 belt-high fastball from Cardinals starter Todd Wellemeyer and sent it well beyond the center-field fence; the ball ricocheted off the top of the ivy-laden brick wall that serves as a batter's eye.
Even third baseman Pedro Feliz, who was slumping after a torrid start to '09, singled twice and is hitting .414 over his past seven games.
And Utley snapped one of his worst stretches of the year. He had five strikeouts and just three hits over his past 23 at-bats (.130) entering Sunday, but greeted Wellemeyer with two singles and a two-run homer in his first three at-bats.
His third-inning, 372-foot blast to right put the Phillies ahead, 3-1, a lead that Blanton would not relinquish.
That's nothing new to the Phillies, who have watched their ostensible No. 2 pitcher go 4-1 with a 2.55 ERA, 54 strikeouts and 15 walks since May 26. In July, he has allowed just four runs in 29 2/3 innings (1.21 ERA).
"He surprised me from the time I saw him in Oakland, since he's come over here," manager Charlie Manuel said. "He's a better pitcher than I thought he was."
Ibanez, who saw Blanton plenty when the two played in the American League West, agrees that the 28-year-old righty's talents are underappreciated.
"He used to wear us out in Seattle," Ibanez said. "He's tough, man. He's one of the more underrated starters."
Added Howard: "He means a lot. ... To us, it doesn't matter what everybody else thinks. He's going out there and doing his job to the best of his ability and he's helping us win. Maybe it does go overseen a little bit. But if he keeps doing what he does, that's fine with me."
Blanton lasted eight innings, tying a season high, and allowed two runs on seven hits. As usual, he downplayed his performance.
He had a 7.11 ERA after his first eight starts, but said that he has not done much differently, other than perhaps throwing slightly better off-speed pitches.
"Nothing in particular," Blanton said. "People sometimes do bad. It doesn't mean you've got to change anything to start doing good. It just happens."
That was Blanton's attitude toward possible trades, too -- they just happen. He knows what it's like to be moved midseason, and he knows that the Phillies have welcoming arms.
And despite his it's-beyond-my-control attitude, he must know the damage Philadelphia could invoke with Roy Halladay joining him and Cole Hamels atop the rotation, supported by the league's best offense.
"Right now we're just going out and playing, having fun," Blanton said. "And we're enjoying the game right now, and that's great. It's good to see."
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.