Power at the plate and power at the bullpen was a combination that won the Phillies a lot of games in 2008. On Thursday night, it won them a 3-1 decision over the Marlins, who leave town having dropped the last two games of the first of six series between these two division rivals.
Solo homers by Shane Victorino and Ty Wigginton off of veteran lefty Mark Buehrle helped give the Phillies the lead, while Chad Qualls and Jonathan Papelbon closed out the eighth and ninth innings to even the Phillies record at 3-3.
Righthander Joe Blanton turned in an excellent effort in his first start since last May, holding Miami to one run on three hits and one walk in seven innings. Blanton, who pitched out of the bullpen last weekend in Pittsburgh, was lifted after 85 pitches.
Qualls recorded two quick outs before giving up a soft infield single to Emilio Bonifacio and walking Hanley Ramirez. He struck Mike Stanton out to end the inning with runners on first and second. Qualls threw 21 pitches, but the only three balls he allowed in play were on the ground, and none of them left the infield.
That brought on Papelbon for his second save attempt since joining the Phillies this offseason. With runners on first and second and one out, the veteran closer got John Buck to hit a first-pitch ground ball to short stop, where Jimmy Rollins flipped to Freddy Galvis, who relayed to first for the game-ending double play. Papelbon opened the inning by allowing a leadoff single to Logan Morrison, then went to a full count on Gaby Sanchez before getting the Marlins first baseman to lift a pop fly that Carlos Ruiz caught in front of the screen. Omar Infante singled up the middle before Buck hit into the game-ending double play.
The loss drops the Marlins to 2-5 on the young season.
9:10 p.m. (Phillies 3, Marlins 1, bot 8th): Well you can see why the Phillies decided to take a cheap flier on Chad Qualls. Lots of movement on his sinker, velocity sitting 92-93. It did get interesting. Only a great play by Placido Polanco, who charged a soft chopper from Jose Reyes and threw on the run to get him in a bang-bang play at first base. Freddy Galvis narrowly missed making a similar play on a soft Emilio Bonifacio grounder. Qualls then walked Hanley Ramirez and got behind Mike Stanton 2-0 and 3-1 before getting him to swing and miss at a 93 MPH sinker, then freezing him with a 92 MPH sinker just below the letters.
8:57 p.m. (Phillies 3, Marlins 1, top 8th): Gut reaction to taking Blanton out: curious move. But then you look at his eighth-inning track record over the last few seasons and it makes more sense. Also keep in mind that he has not started a game since the Grapefruit League. So while he only has 85 pitches through seven innings, he might be close to the end of his rope. The final line: 7 innings, 3 hits, 1 R/ER, 1 BB, 3 SO. Back to that in a sec. First, Blanton's eighth-inning track record. Since 2009, he has faced 35 batters in the eighth inning, allowign 13 hits, five extra base hits, two home runs, and six runs. The Phillies can't just ignore the eighth inning all season. They need to find out what they have at some point. All things considered, a logical move.
As for Blanton, the last time he pitched at least seven innings and allowed four or fewer walks/hits, it was Sept. 22, 2009 at the Marlins in Miami. Last appearance of seven innings with one or fewer runs allowed: Sept. 29 at Washington, when he allowed one unearned run in seven innings in a 7-1 Phillies win.
8:45 p.m. (Phillies 3, Marlins 1, bot 7th): Ty Wigginton's first home run as a Phillie came after he made first-pitch outs in his first two at-bats. This time, he hit a 1-2 pitch into the seats in left field to give the Phillies a two-run lead.
8:34 p.m. (Phillies 2, Marlins 1, top 7th): So, we just finished detailing Shane Victorino's gaudy power numbers against left-handed pitching. Which, of course, means he tries to bunt his way on base to lead off the bottom of the sixth. Polanco's single came after a 10-pitch at-bat. Blanton heads into the seventh with 76 pitches, 53 of them for strikes.
8:24 p.m. (Phillies 2, Marlins 1, mid 6th): More Infante: heading into this series, the former Braves utility man had three home runs in 237 career plate appearances against the Phillies. This series, he has two home runs in nine plate appearances against them.
8:20 p.m. (Phillies 2, Marlins 1, top 6th): Omar Infante has accounted for four of the Marlins' eight runs this series. Right now he is 4-for-9 with two doubles and two home runs in the two-plus games.
8:16 p.m. (Phillies 2, Marlins 1, top 6th): Freddy Galvis just committed his first error as a professional, getting eaten up by a Jose Reyes groundball. Otherwise, things are crisp and moving along. Blanton entered the inning at 63 pitches, Buehrle finished the fifth at 61. We're on pace for a 2 hour, 6 minute game right now. The Marlins cut the Phillies lead in half after a double by, who else, Omar Infante. Infante then scored on a single by John Buck.
8:02 p.m. (Phillies 2, Marlins 0, top 5th): Shane Victorino hit his first HR of the season, the Phillies third HR of the season. That is nothing new against lefties. Here are Victorino's HRs and extra-base hits against lefties by year:
Career: 35 HRs, 113 XBH, 1042 PAs
2012: 1 HR, 1 XBH, 5 PAs
2011: 8 HR, 18 XBH, 145 PAs
2010: 6 HR, 20 XBH, 181 PAs
2009: 2 HR, 18 XBH, 195 PAs
2008: 9 HR, 25 XBH, 196 PAs
2007: 5 HR, 16 XBH, 154 PAs
Also in the inning: Jimmy Rollins thrown out at home on a nice play by Omar Infante, tracking down an errant relay from left field, spinning, and tossing a strike to John Buck to easily get Rollins trying to score from third. Rollins had initially held up, but ran when he saw the relay get past Infante. The play cost the Phillies a run. Hunter Pence, who doubled in that at-bat, scored on a single by John Mayberry Jr.
7:47 p.m. (Phillies 0, Marlins 0, top 4th): Nine up, nine down for Mark Buehrle, so it is worth noting that the veteran lefty already has two no-hitters to his credit. The second was a perfect game on July 23, 2009, when he retired 27 straight Rays. His other no-hitter came on April 16, 2005 against the Rangers. Here's something else I just learned: Buehrle once completed a nine-inning game in 1 hour, 39 minutes. We're moving at a blazing pace thus far tonight.
7:42 p.m. (Phillies 0, Marlins 0, mid 3rd): Give another run saved to Freddy Galvis, who made a diving back-handed stop of a grounder up the middle by Mark Buehrle that probably would have scored John Buck from second base. Blanton: 3 IP, 1 H, 1 SO, 0 BB, 37 pitches, 25 strikes.
7:34 p.m. (Phillies 0, Marlins 0, top 3rd): Buehrle and Blanton have combined for three strikeouts and six groundballs, each of them retiring the first six batters they have faced. Blanton's out pitches: Cutter, Curve, Sinker, Change-up, Sinker, Sinker. Buehrle's out pitches: Change, Cutter, Change, Change, Change, Curve.
7:26 p.m. (Phillies 0, Marlins 0, mid-2nd): It is going to be interesting to see this Phillies offense against Mark Buehrle tonight. The guy throws about 20 pitches for strikes. He's a lot like Jamie Moyer in the way he makes up for mid-80's velocity with an array of off-speed stuff. In the first inning alone, he threw four four-seamers, five change-ups, three curve-balls, four cutters, and, according to pitchFx, one two-seamer.
The good news? Joe Blanton has cruised through his first two innings of work.
It's Joe Blanton against Mark Buehrle, and the quest for a second straight productive night. We'll be updating throughout the game with notes, analysis, observations and more.