The middle of the order’s struggles were a large reason why the Phillies were in a month long slump. With today’s 9-5 victory over the Minnesota Twins, the Phillies have now won three in a row. They aren’t exactly out of the skid, however they are steps closer to getting out of it. Production from the middle of the order is a big reason as to why the offense is improving. Tonight, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard led the charge.
The Phillies immediately got on the board thanks to Utley’s RBI single. Howard followed with a triple, on a ball that was misplayed by right fielder Jason Kubel. Jayson Werth added a sacrifice fly, giving the home team a 3-0 advantage.
The runs kept pouring in. Utley launched a fly ball over the right field wall, only to be followed by a Howard shot in almost the same exact spot. The back-to-back jacks put the Phillies ahead 8-0, providing plenty of breathing room for Joe Blanton.
Blanton cruised along, surrendering three runs in six innings of work. He allowed two of those runs to start the seventh inning, before being lifted. Blanton didn’t exactly dazzle, but he got the job done. He also received plenty of help from his defense, especially Utley, who made three web gems.
The first hit Blanton allowed was a triple to Kubel, however he did not put on the brakes. The third base coach waved Kubel around, trying for the inside-the-park home run. If not for a perfect relay from Shane Victorino to Utley to Carlos Ruiz, Kubel would have been safe. Instead, Utley made a perfect throw and Ruiz (who later left due to an injury) applied the tag.
Utley didn’t stop flashing the leather there. He made a barehanded grab to turn a quick double play. In addition, he made a tremendous diving stop to take a hit away. Not only did he do it with the glove, but he did it with the bat, finishing the night with four runs batted in.
Howard, who has lacked power all season, finally had a power surge. He finished 4-for-4 — all extra base hits. He homered twice, tripled, and doubled. He was a single shy of the cycle.
There was never a doubt that the Phillies would hold their lead, although it did get interesting in the ninth inning when Scott Matheison came on in relief. Matheison surrendered a few runs, but Brad Lidge sealed the deal by getting Joe Mauer to line out to end the game.
The Phillies desperately needed this win. Perhaps they can carry the momentum, put together a nice winning streak, and put their previous struggles behind.