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Florida Edges Blanton, Phillies in Series Opener

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The Florida Marlins scored 3 early runs on Joe Blanton as Phillies offense slumbered against Ricky Nolasco on Friday.  Although rightfielder Ben Francisco followed a leadoff seventh inning single by leftfielder Raul Ibanez by slamming a 2 run homer which just cleared the fence in leftfield, the Marlins made their lead stand up Phillies collected only 4 hits and received 4 walks by Nolasco and 2 relievers.  Florida Edged Blanton and the Phillies by a 3-2 score in their series opener.

With the loss, Phils lost a game of ground in the NL East division race against both Florida and Atlanta who both won on Friday and who now trail by 6 and 6 1/2 games respectively.  The Mets lost and remained 11 games behind in the division as San Diego scored 5 ninth inning runs, including shortstop Everth Cabrera’s walkoff grand slam to win by a 6-2 score to saddle closer Francisco Rodriguez with a loss and a blown save.

Phillies Nation’s Amanda Orr provides a concise recap of the game:

The Florida Marlins jumped on Joe Blanton early.  Larry Bowa’s nephew, and newly acquired Marlin, Nick Johnson, homered to give the Fish a 1-0 lead. In the same inning, Raul Ibanez misplayed Dan Uggla’s double which drove in another run. An inning later, Cody Ross homered and the Marlins were up by three.

After his early struggles, Blanton settled down. Those were the only three runs he allowed in 6.2 innings. He allowed eight hits, walked one, and struck out four.

The Phillies had a perfect opportunity to score after Ryan Howard led off the second inning with a double. Ibanez singled, and Howard was waved by Sam Perlozzo. For whatever reason, Howard stopped at third even though he clearly could have scored since Hanley Ramirez bobbled the ball.  Nolasco got the next two batters, Ben Francisco and  Greg Dobbs. Then, he unintentionally-intentionally walked  Carlos Ruiz to get to Blanton and load the bases. Nolasco escaped without damage.

Francisco, who started in place of Shane Victorino (quad), made it a ballgame again with a left field home run into the flower bed. Before he homered, Francisco threw a runner out at home plate.  It wasn’t enough as the hitting woes continued. With two on and one out in the eighth, Howard struck out and Ibanez grounded out. The Phils left six men on base and were 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

The Phillies were lucky that the bullpen kept the game close. With a runner on second in the ninth inning, Scott Eyre struck out Chris Coghlan on a wild pitch, but  Ruiz failed to throw to first for the final out. It led to a bases loaded jam. Thankfully, Tyler Walker struck out Ramirez, avoiding further damage.

It took Leo Nunez five pitches to convert the save, securing the Marlins 3-2 win.

The 2009 edition of the Ryan Howard strikeout watch is underway.  The 1st baseman, who struck out 199 times last season and has now struck out 134 times in 106 games, struck out 3 times on Friday (18 times in his last 10 games) while reaching only on a second inning leadoff double as the Phils mounted their only major threat against Nolasco loading the bases with 2 out.  Nolasco managed to escape trouble in the second by getting Blanton to ground out to retire the side.  Regular starting centerfielder Shane Victorino did manage to pinch hit in the seventh and fouled out to the catcher.

Blanton, who was scored upon in the first and second innings, cruised through the next 4 2/3 innings before giving up a single and a walk in the seventh.  Reliever Chan Ho Park relieved him and escaped any further scoring when rightfielder Francisco made a pinpoint relay nailing a runner attempting to score from 2nd base on a single to end the inning.   Blanton threw 113 pitches in 6 2/3 innings giving up 3 runs, 2 on homers, and 8 hits while walking 1 and striking out 4.  He deserved a better fate than to lose this one for lack of offensive support.

Winning pitcher Nolasco went seven innings and threw 101 pitches while giving up 2 runs on 4 hits, walking 2 and striking out 7. 

AP sports writer Rob Maaddi notes:

Nolasco (8-7) was demoted to Triple-A New Orleans on May 23 after going 2-5 with a 9.07 ERA. He’s 6-2 with a 2.58 ERA in 12 starts since being recalled.

For the scores of all of Friday’s games, click here.

Saturday’s game 2 is an all-too-frequent battle of lefthanders as Cole Hamels is opposed by Sean West as the Phils aim to even the series at 1 game apiece.

For all of Saturday’s games, click here.

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