One thing that the Phillies have taught us is never to count them out.
So when Carlos Ruiz walked to begin the ninth, the sellout crowd at Citizens Bank Park sensed it. And by the time Ruiz had come around to score, it was true.
Ruiz touched home on an RBI single by pinch-hitter Pete Orr, tying the game at three as Brewers closer John Axford crumbled in the bottom of the ninth. The Phillies had a chance to win it, but Jimmy Rollins left two runners aboard with a pop up to shortstop.
Not good. Because in the top of the 12th, after a bunch of zeroes were put on the board by both sides, Kyle Kendrick would come on and absolutely unravel from the get-go. Eight batters would step to the plate, seven of them by way of an unofficial at-bat. Walk, E1, sac fly, HBP, walk, sac fly, intentional walk, single. All told, the Brewers would score three times to bust out to a 6-3 lead. Kendrick threw 27 pitches, just nine of them for strikes. Kendrick also threw away a chance at a victory.
The Phillies would put two runners on in the bottom of the 12th, only to leave them stranded. On the night, the Phillies finished 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left 11 men on base. So Kendrick may have been the scapegoat, but the offense as a whole was certainly to blame as well.
The only real encouraging sign besides the energizing ninth inning was Joe Blanton. When the Phillies traded for Blanton in the summer of 2008, they envisioned a guy who would eat innings and keep it close enough for the offense to do work. For the most part, they’ve gotten that.
But the start of 2011 has not been kind to Blanton. Going into Monday night’s game with the Brewers, his ERA sat above 10, his WHIP 1.65. After Monday night’s start, however, there is finally something positive for Blanton to lean on.
Against a potent Milwaukee lineup, Blanton reached seven innings – his longest outing of the season – while striking out four and walking one. On his 98th pitch of the night, he got Brewers centerfielder Carlos Gomez to chase a changeup in the dirt for strike three. That was the difference for Blanton on this night compared to his previous two starts; he kept the ball down in the zone and minimized damage.
Unfortunately, what has become commonplace recently for a Phils team that started the season on a tear, he got little help from the offense.
The Phillies struck early with one run in the first inning on a Ryan Howard opposite-field single scoring Placido Polanco. They would not do so again until the seventh when they tallied one more on an interesting play at the plate.
With runners at first and third, Shane Victorino bounced a soft grounder to first baseman Prince Fielder, who threw home in an attempt to nail Wilson Valdez. Fielder’s throw sailed high, allowing Valdez to slide under the tag by catcher Jonathan Lucroy. If the throw were on target, Valdez would have been a dead duck. Instead, the Phillies would tie the game at two.
Blanton’s lone rough inning came in the third when Milwaukee struck for two runs on three hits. The few mistakes Blanton made were pitches left up in the zone, something he talked about overcoming following an awful start against the Mets on April 6 and another sub-par showing on April 12. He was certainly more in control against the Brewers.
“I felt a little better out of the stretch tonight,” said Blanton, after he’d struggled in that aspect of his game previously.
Ryan Madson was not as crisp. On in relief in the eighth inning, Ryan Braun would make his presence felt immediately with a rocket single to left field. Fielder followed by smashing a double down the left field line, making it second and third with no outs for the normally reliable Madson. Braun would cross home plate two batters later on a Yuniesky Betancourt ground out, giving his team a 3-2 lead.
JC Romero replaced Madson in the ninth inning but left with a right calf strain as he reached out for a ground ball up the middle. Romero said after the game that he’ll be on the shelf at least a week, a DL stint is likely. He’ll have an MRI on Tuesdya.
As was mentioned in the Gameday preview, Shaun Marcum is a pitcher to keep an eye on this year and he lived up to those expectations. Marcum fanned five in six innings, allowing just one run on five hits. The Phillies bats were never able to get in the flow against the Brewers righty beyond the first inning in which he tossed 24 pitches.