Werth, Nationals pound Phillies' Blanton

Jayson Werth grounded out here, but he later connected for a double and a home run against his former team.
Jayson Werth grounded out here, but he later connected for a double and a home run against his former team.
Posted: April 13, 2011

WASHINGTON - After Joe Blanton allowed three runs in the fourth inning of a 7-4 loss to the Nationals on Tuesday, the Phillies righthander sat in the dugout and could only think about one thing.

"I remember that same feeling," he said.

Pitching from the stretch with runners on, Blanton said his sinker didn't sink like it should. His secondary pitches were left up in the zone. Everything that felt right in the windup with the bases empty was wrong from the stretch.

And it's a feeling he's had before.

"It's kind of obvious," said Blanton, who allowed five runs in six innings. "I've given up a lot of hits with runners on. I need to make an adjustment there. It's not mind-set or anything. It's the physical execution of being in the stretch."

Jayson Werth had a field day against his former teammates, smacking a double and a homer off Blanton and stealing a base.

One inning with runners on derailed another Blanton start. Two Washington pitchers - Livan Hernandez and Tyler Clippard - had done what Joe Blanton could not by making pitches out of the stretch to strand runners.

Hernandez threw two slow curveballs in a row to Phillies pinch-hitter John Mayberry Jr. in the seventh inning of a four-run game with the bases loaded. Mayberry flailed at a 61-m.p.h. curve for strike three. Then Clippard relieved, also recorded a strikeout, and the Phillies' chance for a comeback was gone.

Blanton created the hole with his mechanical flaw. The problem dates back to the beginning of 2009, when Blanton's first eight starts yielded a 7.11 ERA and a similar pattern of innings gone wayward once a few men reached base. Blanton said he plans to watch video Wednesday to compare his mechanics from this season to that of 2009 to confirm his hunch.

Two seasons ago, he found he had been standing in the stretch with his feet too close to each other, causing a disruption of his arm angle.

"I felt very good out of the windup like I do right now," Blanton said. "My stuff is good, that's not a problem. When I'm in the stretch, it's not as crisp. I wish I would have made the adjustment a day earlier."

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, 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.

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 quick, that will keep most games short.

A free-swinging offense will too. Hernandez walked five in his last outing against Florida. On Tuesday, the Phillies worked just four three-ball counts and no walks.

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).

"I just knew something was wrong," Blanton said.

In his first start after discovering the flaw in 2009, Blanton struck out 11 in seven scoreless innings. In four days, he'll know if the latest film session results in the same progress.


Contact staff writer Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/magelb

 

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