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Preview: Phillies At Reds

(Sports Network) – With their offense starting to heat up, the last thing the Philadelphia Phillies need right now is another injury. However, they might be without former All-Star Chase Utley this evening in the second portion of a three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.

The Phillies had plated 75 runs over their previous 11 games prior to last night’s 7-3 setback. More concerning was the exit of Utley, who injured his right thumb sliding into second base during the fourth inning and had to leave the game in the ninth frame.

The second baseman, who is hitting .395 (15-for-38) over his last 10 games with a homer and 11 RBI, will undergo an MRI on Tuesday and the Phils hope it isn’t serious.

“But for him to leave a game … that’s the last guy that’s going to take himself out of a game,” Shane Victorino told the Phillies’ website. “He’s obviously hurting. I hope he’s not seriously hurt.”

Raul Ibanez had a late two-run homer for Philadelphia and Kyle Kendrick yielded six runs — five earned — on eight hits in 6 1/3 innings of work.

The Phillies had won five of six coming in, but fell 4 1/2 games back of the first-place Braves in the National League East. The Reds, meanwhile, were able to maintain their half-game edge over the second-place Cardinals in the NL Central thanks in part to Scott Rolen’s 300th career homer.

Rolen, who began his career with six-plus seasons in Philadelphia from 1996-2002, launched his team-leading 17th homer of the season to break a scoreless game in the fourth inning. That helped make a winner out of Johnny Cueto, who tossed eight innings and allowed just one run in the Reds’ sixth victory in their last seven games.

“Johnny threw great,” Rolen said. “He’s been consistent all year. Obviously he was lights-out early. He’s going out there deep into the game — [into the] sixth, seventh and eighth inning. Any time you do that, you’ve got a chance to win.”

Orlando Cabrera and Joey Votto both had three hits and an RBI, with Votto extending his string of reaching base safely to a career-best 36 straight games.

Rookie Mike Leake will make his 15th start of the season two days later than anticipated as the Reds try to limit his innings. He is 5-1 with a 2.92 earned run average and has totaled 89 1/3 innings so far. Reds general manager Walt Jocketty told his team’s website that they would like to limit Leake to 170 innings.

“That’s not etched in stone,” he told the site. “It depends on how many pitches he throws each time out, the kind of effort and how he feels.”

The eighth overall pick of the 2009 draft suffered his first career loss on June 16 versus the Dodgers, allowing five runs over six innings. Leake then limited the Athletics to just a run on five hits and four walks over six innings of a no-decision last Monday.

The right-hander is 3-1 with a 3.67 ERA in nine starts at home this year and faces the Phillies for the first time.

Joe Blanton looks to continue his turnaround this evening when he faces the Reds for the third time in his career.

Blanton has won back-to-back starts since an 0-3 stretch that saw him post a 10.18 ERA over four starts. However, the right-hander bested the Twins with six innings of three-run ball on June 18 and followed that up six days later with 7 2/3 frames in a victory against the Indians. Blanton allowed another three runs in the 12-3 triumph, striking out eight.

“I changed a couple things that helped me get the ball down in the zone and I think that’s made a big difference,” Blanton told the Phillies’ website. “Sinker’s a big pitch for me, and not being able to throw it down makes it flat and makes for a tough day when you go out there. Now I’m able to get it down, and everything has been working off of that.”

The 29-year-old is just 1-3 with a 9.27 ERA in four road starts this year and 2-0 with a 4.15 ERA versus the Reds.

The Phillies took five of seven from the Reds last season and have won nine of the last 13 meetings overall.