Here's the final version of last night's game story, with reaction from the players and manager. A technical issue caused only an earlier version to run, so....
Joe Blanton and Shane Victorino have explained their recent transgressions differently, in ways that reflected their personalities. After every poor outing this season, Blanton stood in the Phillies locker room and quietly said he expects to improve.
Victorino, thrown out attempting to steal second with none out and Matt Stairs batting in the ninth inning of the Phils 5-3 loss Monday, bounced around the clubhouse that night and the day after, chirping amiably at reporters and attempting to explain the play to skeptical teammates. At one point, he even crawled into a laundry basket while Brad Lidge—himself a beleaguered player who would later earn a save last night—teased him.
Both men’s coping strategies seemed to yield results, as the Phils beat the Florida Marlins 5-3 at Citizens Bank Park. Blanton enjoyed his best game of the year, pitching seven shutout innings and setting a career high with 11 strikeouts. Victorino went 4 for 5, with two doubles, a run batted in and a run scored.
“He was aggressive and he just kind of went after hitters,” Manuel said of Blanton. “He threw some sliders and got them over…it was a good game for him.”
Blanton’s success came in part from recent adjustments. After noticing that he had pitched far worse with runners on base this season (.342 opponents batting average) than with none on (.282)—a problem he had never before experienced in his career—Blanton hit the video room last week in search of a reason. He discovered that he had moved his feet too far apart while pitching from the stretch, and resolved to correct the problem last night.
In the second, Blanton had his first chance to test the discovery. He got two quick outs, but surrendered a single to Dan Uggla and a ground-rule double to Cody Ross. He then issued an intentional walk to eighth-place hitter Chris Coghlan, bringing up pitcher Andrew Miller, who grounded out to end the inning. In the third, Hanley Ramirez hit an infield single with two out, and Blanton struck out cleanup hitter Jorge Cantu.
All night, the 28-year-old righthander refused to allow baserunners to sidetrack his performance. The improvement was most obvious in the sixth when, after he allowed a leadoff single, Blanton struck out the side. The pitcher ultimately held Florida to 1 for 7 with runners on base, with two walks.
“It definitely didn’t hurt tonight,” Blanton said of the adjustment. “And I think it helped to get my arm in definitely a better throwing position.”
As for Victorino, Manuel said he was impressed by the centerfielder’s night, whether or not the motivation for it derived from Monday’s embarrassment. “He got four hits, played a good game,” the manager said. “I don’t know if he did anything different, but four hits is good. I liked the way he played.”
Victorino said he had forgotten about Monday, and offered a cliche that could have applied to both him and the winning pitcher. “One night you’re the goat,” he said. “The next night you can be the hero.”