In an eight game stretch between May 22 and May 30, the Phillies scored a total of seven runs. Tonight, they topped that before recording six outs, racing out to an 8-0 lead against the visiting Twins and holding on for a 9-5 victory that gave the club its first three-game win streak since May 14-17.
Ryan Howard was the hero, driving in the second of three first-inning runs with a triple, then clubbing solo homers in the second and fifth. Howard added a double in the seventh, finishing the night 4-4 with 13 total bases. But the top five hitters in the lineup all delivered, going a combined 9 for 19 with three walks, eight runs scored, and nine driven in. Chase Utley preceded Howard's first homer with a three-run shot off Twins starter Nick Blackburn, who didn't finish the second inning, helping give credence to his denial of a reported injury earlier in the day.
On the mound, Joe Blanton somewhat returned to the form of his first few starts in 2010: strong into the middle innings before he lost it in a hurry. Through four innings, Blanton didn't allow a hit; Jason Kubel led off the fifth with a triple to center and was thrown out at home trying to complete the inside-the-parker on a great play by Utley. A Delmon Young single and Jim Thome walk put two more men on before Denard Span lined out to first to end the inning. With one out in the sixth, Blanton allowed consecutive singles to Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer to plate a run before Kubel grounded into an inning-ending double play. But he couldn't escape trouble in the seventh, when Young led off with a single off the left-field wall and then Nick Punto--Nick Punto!--homered to right, ending Blanton's night at six-plus innings, seven hits allowed, three runs, three walks and a single strikeout.
The top of the ninth inning started as a feel-good story and almost turned into a nightmare. Scott Mathieson made his first big-league appearance since September 2006, and drew cheers with a live fastball clocked as high as 99 miles per hour. But singles from Young, Punto and Span around a popup loaded the bases with one out, and a wild pitch cut the Phils' lead to 9-4. Orlando Hudson grounded to short, scoring Punto to make it 9-5 before Brad Lidge came on to get Mauer on a deep flyout to right that ended it.
The Phils hope to keep the good times rolling Saturday afternoon as Cole Hamels faces Kevin Slowey. Of potential concern was a blow catcher Carlos Ruiz took to the head in the eighth inning, as Kubel's follow-through swing struck him on the helmet. Brian Schneider worked the ninth and likely will catch Hamels tomorrow.