It's 10:41 p.m. here at Dodger Stadium, 1:41 a.m. back east, and four days into the second half of the season, the Phillies have yet to flatline. In fact, they've won three straight games, buyoued in large part by starting pitching. Vance Worley, Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton have combined to hold their opponents to five runs in 22 2/3 innings, a trend that will need to continue for the Phillies to put together the kind of run they are going to need to overcome their current deficit.
In Monday night's 3-2 win over the Dodgers, Blanton allowed two runs in eight innings. It was the first time since May 13 that they won a game in which they scored three or fewer runs. They are 5-36 overall this season when scoring three or fewer runs. Last year, they were 30-47 when scoring three or fewer runs, the best mark in baseball.
Blanton says the rotation is confident it can still win enough of these kinds of games to keep the team rolling.
"I don't think there is any doubt in our pitchers' minds that we can go seven, eight innings consistently," he said. "Hopefully we can just kind of feed off each other -- not really compete with one another like some people say, but feed off each other's energy and see those good outings rack up one after another and not really think about it. Go out and just have fun pitching."
Another headling from Monday: Ryan Howard hit his first home run of the 2012 season, a solo shot off of Nate Eovaldi in the fourth inning which came after he flied out to the base of the wall in left field in his first at bat. Howard entered the game with six strikeouts and zero hits in 12 at-bats since his two-hit 2012 debut.
"Confidence is always good, now it's just a matter of getting back into the flow of playing, and playing at this level," Howard said. "It was definitely big. It was something that was very meaningful today because we won, and both teams played a hard-fought 3-2 ballgame. It was a difference today."
Howard, who returned to the lineup in the final series before the All-Star Break, said he feels better than his results have shown.
"It's just a matter of making adjustments," he said. "I feel good. Now it's just a matter of slowing myself down at times. Sometimes I get to be quick. Now it's just a matter of slowing myself down and making adjustments. Even though it doesn't show for it against lefties, I feel good against lefties, especially, I don't know if you look at how many guys that I've faced that throw 94 MPH-plus from the left side. Usually, for me, that's an uncomfortable at bat. But right now, knock on wood, it's felt pretty good."