Cruising Blanton falters in fifth frame vs. Fish

Cruising Blanton falters in fifth frame vs. Fish

Cruising Blanton falters in fifth frame vs. Fish
MIAMI -- Joe Blanton was cruising toward his first win as a Dodger on Saturday night, or so it looked.

And then?

"It just kind of happened, and it happened quick," said Blanton, who had a one-hitter through 4 1/3 innings before allowing four consecutive hits in a four-run fifth, as the Marlins upended the Dodgers, 7-3.

With San Francisco winning, Los Angeles fell out of a tie for first place in the National League West.

It didn't matter that Matt Kemp had three hits and his first multi-steal game in 13 months, or that the rooting section behind the visiting dugout included Olympic gold-medal winner Misty May-Treanor, wife of Matt, who will start at catcher on Sunday.

A couple of well-placed bouncing doubles down the line and past diving third baseman Jerry Hairston (who aggravated a hip injury on one of them) were followed by a mistake pitch that John Buck doubled into the gap. That was followed by Austin Kearns' pinch-hit single, which was followed by Gorkys Hernandez's safety-squeeze bunt, which was followed by Justin Ruggiano's RBI single.

"Everything was going really good," said Blanton, who retired nine consecutive batters, including slugger Giancarlo Stanton on a called strike-three one pitch after a monstrous foul ball that even losing manager Don Mattingly had to admire.

"That ball was crushed," said Mattingly. "It was pretty, especially when it went foul. I'm not sure if the foul pole went up high enough. It might have been gone before it got past the pole."

Mattingly compared Blanton's sudden reversal to a start Clayton Kershaw had in St. Louis, where Kershaw held the Cardinals scoreless for 4 2/3 innings, then allowed nine of the next 12 batters to reach base and was charged with eight runs, even though most of the hits were soft.

"He was rolling along, his pitch count [50] was down and doing what he wanted with the ball," Mattingly said of Blanton. "All of a sudden, the switch got flipped and he couldn't keep them from hitting the ball hard. As the inning went on, even after they scored two, I thought he would stop the bleeding and recover and go back out."

Catcher A.J. Ellis agreed with Mattingly's comparison to the Kershaw game in St. Louis.

"He was really cruising there," Ellis said of Blanton, who drew a no-decision in his Dodgers debut. "All of his pitches, all of the spots. He struck out Stanton, then a couple cheap doubles, well-placed hits by them. For Joe and I, things got a little fast. I needed to slow the game down, let him settle in and limit the damage. I've got to do a better job of that, instead of pumping signs, and let him mix in some extra breaths."

The Dodgers let Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco off a bases-loaded hook in the first two innings, James Loney flying out in the first and Kemp striking out in the second after Nolasco fell behind in the count, 3-0.

"I think Ricky was surrounded by Houdini over there, because I don't know how he did it," said Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen. "David Copperfield tried to help him too, because he was hard to watch. ... Obviously he was hard to watch, but a zero is a zero. They only scored two runs against him."

"It's not the situation you want to be in, especially with how quickly it happened," Nolasco said of the Kemp at-bat. "At 3-0, just got to dig deep. I don't like walking guys and I definitely don't want to walk a guy with the bases loaded there. I just tried to make the best pitches I could. Got away with two fastballs. ... That kind of hitter, you can't expect to throw three straight fastballs and have that kind of success, so I had to change it up on the 3-2 pitch and just made it just good enough for him to swing. Had to try to find a way to get out of that."

The Dodgers' offense would get nine hits in five innings off Nolasco, including one from former Marlin Hanley Ramirez, who went 1-for-4 with a double-play grounder. Nolasco came into the game with a five-game losing streak.

The results from the Dodgers' recent trade acquisitions are mixed. Ramirez has 15 RBIs in 16 games, but he's hitting only .274. Blanton has allowed six earned runs in 11 innings. Shane Victorino, who had the first RBI in the game when he beat out what had the makings of an inning-ending double-play grounder to allow Ellis to score, is batting .256 since his trade.

Brandon League's problems continued with three more runs in two-thirds of an inning, his Dodgers ERA up to 16.88. Randy Choate, who came over in the Ramirez trade and did not pitch Saturday, has allowed three earned runs in 4 2/3 innings.

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