Phils, Blanton get lift from Howard's first homer

Phils, Blanton get lift from Howard's first homer

Phils, Blanton get lift from Howard's first homer
LOS ANGELES -- Ryan Howard pondered the return of Roy Halladay to the Phillies' rotation after Monday's desperately needed 3-2 victory over the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium.

"Aren't you excited?" he said.

Yeah, sure.

"See? There you go," he said. "I'm sure everybody is going to be excited. But I guess we have to curb our enthusiasm, I guess you could say. We've got a job to do. Roy is going to try to go out there and do the best he can. We've just got to try to back them up."

Only the front office knows if the Phillies can play well enough before the July 31 Trade Deadline to prevent Cole Hamels, Shane Victorino and possibly others from being shipped elsewhere in an attempt to retool for 2013 and beyond, but the Phillies improved to 3-1 following the All-Star break with Monday's victory. They have Halladay pitching for the first time since May 27 on Tuesday, and Cliff Lee is pitching the series finale Wednesday.

They have an excellent opportunity this week to prove they have one great run left in them, although the reality of the situation still shows them 13 games behind the first-place Nationals in the National League East and 10 games out of a Wild Card spot.

"We've got a winning streak," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said, referring to the team's first three-game winning streak since they won four straight May 23-26.

The Phillies on Monday looked a bit like last year's team: They combined good starting pitching with just enough offense to win.

It was the first time since May 13 the Phillies won a game when scoring three or fewer runs. They are 5-36 (.122) in those games this season after going 30-47 (.390) last season, which was the best mark in baseball.

Phillies right-hander Joe Blanton allowed six hits, two runs, no walks and struck out seven in eight innings to improve to 8-8. It was the first time Blanton had not allowed a home run in a start since May 8. He started the game with five scoreless innings before allowing a run in each the sixth and seventh inning.

He opened the seventh inning by allowing back-to-back singles but worked out of the jam.

He pitched a perfect eighth inning, striking out Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp on a cutter to end his night.

"I still felt like I was throwing the ball really well," Blanton said. "I got a couple pitches up to start the seventh and gave up hits on them, but I felt like I finished the inning strong. I fell behind the first couple guys [in the eighth], but I was able to make a couple pitches after that. That's huge when you've got Kemp and [Andre] Ethier coming up. They're great hitters, especially with runners on, so it was huge getting the guys out in front of them."

Blanton got some help early. Carlos Ruiz doubled and scored on Juan Pierre's two-out single to right-center field in the second inning to hand the Phillies a 1-0 lead. Jimmy Rollins, whom the Dodgers reportedly have interest in acquiring before the end of the month, homered to right field in the third inning to make it 2-0.

Howard then smacked his opposite-field homer to left field in the fourth to make it 3-0.

It was Howard's first home run of the season. He barely missed one in the second, but flied out to the warning track in left.

"I knew we weren't in Colorado anymore," Howard joked. "I didn't know. I was just trying to make some solid contact. I flew out at the warning track. I just tried to come up in my next AB and make something happen."

"I felt like I located it pretty well," Dodgers right-hander Nathan Eovaldi said. "It was a changeup down and away and he's just a good hitter."

It proved to be the game winner.

The Phillies need several more homers from Howard and his teammates and more efforts like the one from Blanton if they have any shot at competing for a postseason berth. The Phillies were optimistic afterward.

"I don't think there's any doubt in any of our pitchers' minds that we can go seven, eight consistently," Blanton said. "Hopefully we can kind of feed off each other. Not really compete with one another, like some people say, but just feed off each other's energy and have good outings, just rack up one good one after another."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.