Phillies Send Blanton To The Hill To Face Marlins

(Sports Network) - The Philadelphia Phillies have been inconsistent on offense all year, and it was never more evident than during Monday's doubleheader versus the Florida Marlins. That still didn't stop the club from pulling within a half-game of first place in the National League East.

The Phillies will try to grab sole possession of first place for the first time since late May as Joe Blanton aims to extend an eight-start unbeaten streak in tonight's third contest of a four-game series versus the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park.

Philadelphia entered Monday's twinbill one game back of the front-running Braves for the NL East's top spot and had the opportunity to move ahead of Atlanta after it lost to the Pirates yesterday.

However, the Phillies were out hit 13-3 in dropping the first game, 7-1, before responding with a 7-4 triumph in the nightcap.

Florida's Adalberto Mendez pitched six shutout innings in his MLB debut in the first game, though he did leave with a strained right quad suffered while running to first in the seventh. However, Philadelphia managed just Jayson Werth's RBI single off the rookie.

Marlins rookie Mike Stanton entered the series in a 3-for-45 slump, but homered in both contests and had four hits in nine at-bats. His solo homer in the second inning of the nightcap was one of three homers allowed by Phils starter Roy Oswalt, who also yielded home-run balls to Hanley Ramirez and Cameron Maybin.

Oswalt, though, still got the win thanks in part to a five-run second inning by his offense.

"The pitches I threw to Hanley and Maybin were just poor pitch selection," Oswalt admitted. "Played right into their hands,"

Chase Utley and Placido Polanco combined to drive in three runs in the second frame, and both ended with a pair of hits and two RBI in game two. Carlos Ruiz got the run started with a bases-loaded walk off Anibal Sanchez.

"The worst of it was a lot of walks, a lot of balls, a lot of being behind in the count," Sanchez said after giving up seven runs over four-plus innings. "That's not good for me."

Philadelphia has now won nine of 12 since a four-game losing streak and pulled within a half-game of Atlanta. A victory tonight coupled with another loss by the Braves would put the Phillies, who also lead the Giants by 1 1/2 games for the NL Wild Card spot, back into sole possession of first place for the first time since May 30.

If the Phillies are to do their part, they will need a better effort out of Blanton than the one he gave last time out.

The righty hasn't lost since July 21, having gone 3-0 in eight starts since, and had notched a 2.81 earned run average over his previous five starts before getting tagged for six runs -- four earned -- on 10 hits, three homers and two walks in just 4 1/3 innings versus Colorado on Thursday. However, his offense rallied for a 12-11 win to take Blanton off the hook.

The 29-year-old is 6-6 with a 5.25 ERA in 23 starts this year and has yet to face Florida in 2010. Lifetime versus the Marlins, he is 4-2 with a 3.44 ERA.

The Marlins, who had won four of five prior to Monday's doubleheader, will try to get a fourth straight win tonight out of Chris Volstad, who left his last start on Wednesday versus Washington after five innings.

Volstad allowed six runs in the 16-10 victory, but was ejected after he threw behind the Nationals' Nyjer Morgan, sparking a benches-clearing brawl. Morgan charged the mound after the pitch and connected with a left to Volstad's neck.

"Obviously, he's not coming out there to talk," Volstad said. "I had to defend myself and not to get hurt."

The 23-year-old righty, who earned his career high-tying ninth win to match his total from last year, was fined and suspended for six games but is appealing.

Volstad is 0-1 with a 5.63 ERA in three starts versus the Phillies this year and was beat up for six runs -- five earned -- over four innings in his last start at Philadelphia on June 8.

He'll look for some help from the offense tonight, especially from Ramirez, seeing as the shortstop is hitting .471 (24-for-51) with five homers and 14 RBI over a 14-game hitting streak.

The Phillies notched a three-game sweep in Miami the last time these clubs met and own an 8-5 edge in the season series.

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