Citizens Bank Park —
More offensive fireworks, more room to spare in the Wild Card standings. Behind the arm of Joe Blanton and the sweet swinging bats of Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Jayson Werth, the Phils extended their Wild Card lead to two games over the Giants with an 8-2 win.
Focus in first on Rollins’ 3-for-5 night at the plate as the catalyst for the victory. Add in two stolen bases and you have yourself a completely healthy J-Roll for the first time in a long time. He’s hitting his stride and why wouldn’t he be; it’s late season baseball, the time when Rollins loves to shine. It’s also ironic that he is now a complete player with the calf muscle strain in his rear view. The correlation is obvious – J-Roll relies on speed and the Phillies rely on him to be their button-pusher. His three-run home run and triple prove as much.
Jayson Werth mentioned a time when Charlie Manuel spoke candidly about Jimmy Rollins. When Manuel was asked if Rollins can hit, Charlie replied “bet your sweet ass.” Say no more.
Chase Utley had his first two hits since his return from the DL. Jayson Werth smashed his 40th double of the season. Carlos Ruiz had a couple of hits as well. This offense is percolating.
Lest we forget the Chosen One, Domonic Brown. Riding his steed to the plate as a pinch hitter, Brown soothed fears that he would be lost and gone forever to whittle away on the Phillies bench. His monstrous 440-foot, upper-deck blast caused an eruption, putting a capper on a splendid evening.
Blanton, per usual, was not perfect. First innings in games that he starts have been disastrous lately, and today was nothing new. Blanton allowed an absolute bomb out of the gate to leadoff hitter Andres Torres that cleared the AT&T sign in right field. His first inning ERA of 8.53 (14.63 over his previous eight starts) ballooned with the stroke of Torres’ bat. San Francisco would put two more runners on in the inning, however, Blanton was able to work his was out of the jam.
Beyond that inning, Big Joe settled in accordingly. At one point, Blanton retired eight in a row before Pat Burrell struck again. Burrell launched a solo home run over the high wall in center, to a smattering of boos and cheers. Blanton continues to deal with the long ball (19 homers in 20 starts), but on this night, he was able to minimize the damage in those innings.
One concern continues to be Blanton’s inablilty to go to the seventh inning and beyond. After allowing two base runners with one out in the seventh, Joe was pulled for Chad Durbin, who induced an inning-killing double play. Still, once in a while he’ll need to get beyond the seventh more often, something he hasn’t been able to accomplish this season.
Tomorrow, the Phillies have the opportunity to distance themselves further in the Wild Card debate, all while making a push at the division that is well within reach. To close out this series would send this baseball-crazed town into even more of a tizzy.
Every night, someone new brings something to the table. Tonight it was Jimmy and Chase. Who steps up tomorrow?