Blanco, Phillies' offense break out vs. Tigers' closer

Blanco, Phillies' offense break out vs. Tigers' closer

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The previously dormant Phillies offense jumped to life against Joe Nathan, scoring six fifth-inning runs with help from an Andres Blanco two-run triple on their way to a 6-5 win over the Tigers on Thursday at Joker Marchant Stadium.

Justin Verlander faced the minimum nine batters over three innings in his second start of the spring, erasing Odubel Herrera's first-inning double with a pickoff at second base before retiring the next seven Phillies in order. Verlander's fastball ranged from 91-93 mph, while he spotted offspeed pitches for the second straight outing.

"I was pretty pleased again," Verlander said. "I didn't throw quite as many curveballs. I don't really know too much about that today. I know the ones I did throw, I had some pretty good success on it. Other than that, it went pretty well. Threw a couple good changeups again. Slider was horrible, so I have some work to do."

Verlander threw 21 of 28 pitches for strikes. After Joakim Soria pitched a hitless fourth with a walk and a strikeout, on came Nathan, who had tossed three scoreless innings on two hits this spring before Thursday.

Nathan's velocity was around the same, ranging from 89-91 mph on his fastball. His command in the strike zone, however, seemed off. Philadelphia's first three hitters -- Jeff Francoeur, Cody Asche and Freddy Galvis -- all hit line-drive singles to left before Blanco ripped a triple just inside first base and into the right-field corner.

Nathan regrouped with back-to-back groundouts from Cameron Rupp and Ben Revere, and he initially seemed to have a chance to end the inning with a Herrera grounder to first. Once Herrera beat Nathan to the bag, however, the inning fell apart further with a Domonic Brown walk.

Nathan's 34th and final pitch resulted in a Ryan Howard grounder that Jordan Lennerton, a two-time Minor League Gold Glove Award winner, mishandled at first base for an error.

By inning's end, the Phillies had scored more runs than they had posted in their previous three games combined. It was all their offense for Thursday, too, thanks in part to Bruce Rondon's perfect sixth inning in his first outing in a year.

Philly's outburst was just enough to withstand a seventh-inning rally that included an RBI single from Ben Verlander, Justin's younger brother. J.D. Martinez hit his second home run of the spring, a first-inning solo shot off Phillies starter Jerome Williams, in a 2-for-3 performance. Jefry Marte, who entered at designated hitter after Yoenis Cespedes left with a tight left quad, drove in two runs.

Williams gave up two runs on four hits over three innings before David Buchanan tossed three scoreless innings on one hit with a strikeout.

Up next for Phillies: A couple of Phillies prospects will get a good look Friday against the Rays in a 1:05 p.m. ET Grapefruit League game at Bright House Field, live on MLB.TV. Left-hander Joely Rodriguez, whom the Phillies acquired in December from Pittsburgh for Antonio Bastardo, will start against Tampa Bay. He is expected to open the season in the Minor Leagues. Left-hander Jesse Biddle, once considered the Phillies' top pitching prospect, will follow him.

Jason Beck is a reporter for Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.