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Soriano’s Homer Powers Cubs Past Sleeping Phillies Offense

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Two recent ex-teammates Joe Blanton and Rich Harden locked up in a near-deadlock for five innings with the Phillies holding a 2-1 lead.  But the Cubs benefited from Blanton’s sixth inning wildness and a forced-in run on a walk by former Cub reliever Scott Eyre. The Cubs took the lead on leftfielder Alfonso Soriano’s seventh inning 1 out solo homer off of reliever Clay Condrey enroute to a 3-2 win on Friday.

With the loss, the Mets increased their NL East division lead over the Phillies to 2 full games with their come-from-behind win over the 3th place Marlins who are now 7 games back. The 4th place Atlanta Braves lost to the cellar-dwelling  Washington Nationals and are now 16 games behind.

Blanton was impressive through the first 4 innings, not allowing the Cubs a hit through 3 2/3 innings and, at one point, retiring 10 straight Cubs. 

Meanwhile, after Harden got the first 2 outs in the first inning, he hit 2nd baseman Chase Utley, then walked 1st baseman Ryan Howard and gave up a run-scoring single to left by leftfielder Pat Burrell as the Phils took an early 1-0 lead.  But the Phils couldn’t capitalize on 2 more Harden walks in the second inning.

AP Sports Writer Rick Gano describes the rest of the game for Yahoo sports;

The Phillies made it 2-0 in the fifth. Utley singled and raced to third when Howard singled to right, then scored when  [rightfielder Kosuke] Fukudome’s throw to first apparently hit Howard for an error, and the ball got away from [1st baseman Derrek] Lee.

With a 2-0 lead, he [Blanton] ran into trouble the following inning when Mark DeRosa walked, stole second and moved to third on Henry Blanco’s infield single to third.

Pinch-hitter Daryle Ward hit a perfect double play grounder to second with one out, but after taking Chase Utley’s toss for the forceout, shortstop [Jimmy] Rollins sailed a throw over Howard at first and DeRosa scored.

Chicago tied it in the sixth on four walks, three by Blanton and one by former-Cub Scott Eyre to Kosuke Fukudome.

Philadelphia had put runners at the corners with two outs in the top of the seventh before Howard’s hard grounder went off Derrek Lee. The first baseman retrieved the ball, tossed to pitcher Jeff Samardzija and first base umpire Chris Guccione called Howard out. In the ensuing argument from Phillies manager Charlie Manuel and third base coach Steve Smith, Smith was ejected by plate umpire Bill Welke.

Howard was called out, the game remained tied and Alfonso Soriano homered in the bottom half for the surging Cubs.

“I was pretty sure I was safe. … It’s definitely frustrating. It changes the outcome of the game,” Howard said. “It changes the momentum. Instead of being down 3-2, they get out of the inning, Soriano comes up and hits a home run, now they’re up 3-2.”

Outside of the seventh inning threat squelched by the close play on Howard, the Phils registered no offense after the fifth inning against 3 Cub relievers.   Samardzija recorded his 1st MLB win and reliever Carlos Marmol notched his 7th save.   Both Harden and Blanton were pulled with pitch counts of 100 or more.  Harden had an even 100 pitches in 5 innings and Blanton threw 114 pitches in 5 2/3 innings.   Condrey, who coughed up Soriano’s solo shot, was charged with the loss. 

Phillies Nation’s Tim Malcolm articulated the frustration which Phillies fans feel today with these comments;

These are the things the Cubs do. The things winning ballclubs do.

The Phils couldn’t come back to at least tie the game. But why would they? Those are the things the Cubs do.

For all of the scores, boxscores and recaps on Friday’s games, click here.

These remaining 8 road games are perhaps the most important games of the season; 2 MUST WIN games against the Central division leading Chicago Cubs to finish off August, followed by 3 vs the Washington Nationals and then 3 at Shea stadium, their final 3 regular season games against the Mets.

On Saturday, Brett Myers, who hasn’t given up a run in 16 innings, is opposed by lefthander Ted Lilly.   In Sunday’s final, 45 year old lefthander Jamie Moyer faces Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano.

For all of the scores, boxscores and recaps on Saturday’s games, click here.

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