The two Washington pitchers had done what Joe Blanton could not - create some swings and misses to strand runners. In a 7-4 loss to the Nationals and old friend Jayson Werth, Blanton was undone by another haywire inning. He allowed five runs in six innings.
In the three-run fourth, Blanton threw 23 pitches. One was a swinging strike. Four Nationals in a row reached base on a double, single, walk, and single. Then, Hernandez safety-squeezed home the third run of the inning. Blanton fielded the ball cleanly and had a shot at the runner coming home, but in a moment of indecisiveness just tossed the ball to first.
Werth had started that rally with a leadoff double. Booed each time he came to the plate and caught a fly ball in right, the $126 million man burned his former team. He reached base three of four times, hooked a home run inside the left-field foul pole, scored two runs, and stole a base.
In Blanton's first start of the season, the Phillies were able to overcome his ineffectiveness. On Tuesday at Nationals Park, the crafty Hernandez kept an impatient lineup from accumulating base runners.
The best chance to score was in the seventh when Mayberry and Shane Victorino fanned. The rookie Mayberry led the majors in pinch-hits entering Tuesday, and Charlie Manuel chose him to face the soft-tossing righty rather than use his best power bat off the bench, lefthanded Ross Gload.
Ten games into the season, the Phillies have yet to play a game lasting more than three hours. With a pitching staff that throws strikes and works quickly, that will keep most games short.
A free-swinging offense will, too. Hernandez walked five in his last outing against Atlanta. On Tuesday, the Phillies worked just four three-ball counts and earned no walks against him.
Meanwhile, Blanton faced a Nationals lineup that was missing its star third baseman (Ryan Zimmerman), usual cleanup hitter (Adam LaRoche) and fifth hitter (Michael Morse). And this is a team that entered the day ranked dead last in the National League in batting average (.217) and slugging percentage (.328). In its first nine games, Washington scored an average of four runs per game, eight-best in the NL.
On this night, Matt Stairs batted fourth for the first time since 2009, when he was a Phillie. Laynce Nix, batting sixth, had two hits in 11 at-bats this season. He singled in his first two against Blanton and scored in the fourth.
As bad as Blanton was to begin last season, when he missed the first month with a strained side muscle, he has been worse in 2011. His first two starts of 2010 came against St. Louis and Atlanta, yielding seven runs on 15 hits in 122/3 innings along with two "Ls" next to his name.
This season, against New York and Washington, he has pitched 101/3 innings and allowed 12 runs on 17 hits. Blanton does have 10 strikeouts, but only four were swinging. Many of the swings against Blanton have resulted in hits.
Pitching coach Rich Dubee visited the mound after Blanton walked Danny Espinosa in the fourth. Three pitches and two batters later, another two runs had scored and an insurmountable hole had been dug.
Contact staff writer Matt Gelb at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/magelb