Blanton toes rubber for Phils in middle tilt with Braves
(Sports Network) - It has been a frustrating season for Philadelphia starter Joe Blanton, but if he can duplicate his earlier start against Atlanta, the right-hander could enter the All-Star break above .500.
Keeping the ball in the park would help, something Blanton will try to do this evening when the Phillies resume a three-game series against the Braves.
Blanton is tied for the lead in the National League with 19 homers allowed over his 17 outings -- all but one of those starts -- and gave up a longball for a 10th straight game in Sunday's 5-2 loss in Miami. Despite the home run, he managed to throw a quality outing by giving up three runs on six hits and two walks in six innings of work.
The 31-year-old still fell to 7-7 on the season after having a three-decision win streak halted, though his earned run average dipped to 4.85.
One of Blanton's two complete games this season came against the Braves back on May 3 in Atlanta. He hurled a three-hit shutout, striking out six without a walk to move to 2-4 with a 4.65 ERA lifetime against the club.
It was Blanton's first shutout since June 2, 2007 while with Oakland and Atlanta catcher David Ross, who had one of the Braves' three hits, said the Phillies hurler kept them off-balanced.
"He threw a lot of strikes. We hit a lot of balls hard right at guys," said Ross. "It's just one of those games."
Braves starter Tommy Hanson also took a loss last time out despite a good outing and he'll try to rebound tonight.
The righty lost for the first time in five decisions on Monday versus the Cubs, allowing four runs on seven hits and a walk in seven innings. He struck out eight, but gave up a three-run double in the seventh that was the difference in a 4-1 defeat.
"Just came down to that last inning really," Hanson said. "A couple of base hits up the middle and I wanted to throw a back-door slider right there and it kind of leaked over the middle. I felt really good with my stuff. I was throwing strikes and getting ahead of guys. It just came down to that last inning."
Hanson, 25, fell to 9-5 with a 3.70 ERA in 17 games this season after his first loss since May 28.
Hanson faced the Phillies one day before Blanton's gem and lasted just 3 2/3 frames. He yielded four runs on eight hits before his exit, but did not get a decision in his club's wild 15-13 win.
The 2005 draft pick is 1-2 with a 2.93 ERA in eight career meetings with the Phillies.
Philadelphia saw the much-anticipated return of slugger Ryan Howard to the lineup last night, but the offense didn't catch fire off the spark and Atlanta rolled to a 5-0 win.
Brian McCann hit a grand slam as part of a five-run eighth and Freddie Freeman also drew a bases-loaded walk off Phils reliever Antonio Bastardo in the frame.
"I lost command of the ball," said Bastardo. "I didn't command my fastball tonight."
Tim Hudson pitched seven innings and gave up just four hits and a walk as the Braves won for the third time in four games.
"He gave us a hell of chance to win the game against a good ball club," said Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez about Hudson.
Howard, the 2006 NL MVP, played in his first game since suffering a torn Achilles tendon while making the final out in Philadelphia's series-ending Game 5 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Oct. 7.
He doubled in his first at-bat and later singled in a 2-for-4 night, but it didn't matter as the rest of the offense managed just three hits and two walks and the Phillies lost for the eighth time in their past nine games.
"It felt good to be back out there on a big league field," said Howard. "The outcome didn't go the way we wanted to but the rhythm felt good."
The Phillies have won nine of their past 11 versus the Braves.