Blanton settles down, but lacks support in Miami

Blanton settles down, but lacks support in Miami

Blanton settles down, but lacks support in Miami
MIAMI -- Officially halfway through the season, the Phillies look like a team missing injured stars Roy Halladay and Ryan Howard, as well as winless ace Cliff Lee.

Philadelphia couldn't muster enough run support for Joe Blanton on Sunday afternoon, and the club was swept by Miami with a 5-2 loss in front of 31,727 at Marlins Park.

At 36-45 after their fifth straight loss, the Phillies find themselves on pace to finish with 90 losses this season. They are nine under .500 for the first time since July 25, 2006. It also marks their worst record through 81 games since 1997, when they were 23-58.

"We are where we are right now," said Juan Pierre, who finished 2-for-3 with both runs against his former team. "We can't go back. We've dug ourselves a pretty good hole here, and all we can do is look forward and not try to win four games in a row when you're only playing three.

"You've just got to take it -- as clichéd as it may sound -- one game at a time and know that we do have big boys coming back, knowing that when they come back it's not, 'Oh, they're back, we're going to automatically do something.' We still need to do things right individually and as a team starting Tuesday."

Sunday's loss finished off the fourth sweep of the Phillies so far this season. They were swept just twice all of last year -- in a two-game set against the Cardinals (May 16-17) and in a four-game series against the Nationals (Sept. 20-22).

Blanton (7-7) faced trouble in the second inning as Miami collected two runs on four hits, including a pair of two-out RBI doubles by Omar Infante and John Buck, to take a 2-1 lead.

Giancarlo Stanton, who was named to his first All-Star Game on Sunday, knocked his 19th homer of the season to right field on a 2-1 pitch with two outs in the third to give Miami a 3-1 lead.

On the season, Blanton has allowed 19 long balls, which is tied for third most in the Majors.

"Just a fastball away that got up," said Blanton, who has allowed three runs or fewer in nine of his 12 starts against the Marlins. "If it's down, he hits a ground ball, but big, strong guy -- possibly the most power in the league -- if you leave a pitch up, there's a good chance he's going to hit it a long way."

But that was all Blanton would give up in his six innings, striking out seven batters and walking two. In nine of his last 13 road starts, the right-hander has surrendered three earned runs or fewer.

In the first inning, the Phillies jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Hunter Pence's RBI fielder's choice. Pierre tripled to right with one out and came home on Pence's grounder to third, just beating Buck's tag on Hanley Ramirez's throw.

Pence, who is batting .471 against Miami this year, drove in four of the Phillies' six runs in the weekend series.

Following Pence's at-bat, Ricky Nolasco (7-6) retired the next 10 Phillies before Shane Victorino's leadoff single to right in the fifth inning.

"Breaking balls were sharp today, curveballs, sliders, just keeping these guys off balance," said Nolasco, who struck out six and walked none in seven innings. "Obviously they're a very good hitting team, but you just got to be aggressive, attack them and put the ball in play. I did a good job of pitching ahead."

Philadelphia pulled within a run in the sixth thanks to back-to-back one-out singles by Pierre and Pence, as well as a pair of wild pitches by Nolasco.

Yet once again, missing out on timely hits -- a recurring theme for the team of late -- proved to be the case in the fifth, sixth and eighth innings. Twice Victorino left a pair of runners on base.

It extended a horrid skid for the Phillies' bats: With runners in scoring position, they are 21-for-113 (.186).

Ramirez capped the scoring in the eighth when he sent Antonio Bastardo's 3-2 pitch over the wall in left field for a two-run homer.

"Don't matter how hard it gets, you never know what's going to happen and you definitely have to stay up and keep going and you try to get better," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "There's a lot of baseball. You've got to keep swinging, stay up, you've got to stay positive. ... Bottom line is it gets back to how much you love to play and how much you want to play and enjoy playing."

Christina De Nicola is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.