Popped Clutch: Padres 6, Phillies 5 (10)

Reports that the hell-slump was over might have been premature. While the Phillies did put five runs on the board Sunday, Padres defensive mistakes were responsible for all five, and the team didn't crack the scoreboard over the last eight innings as hitters repeatedly came up small in key situations, going 2 for 13 with men in scoring position and 0 for 8 after the second. The result was a deflating 6-5 loss that saw several fine relief performances and defensive plays go to waste. 

Joe Blanton further cemented his status as the number five man in the rotation with a poor performance against a less than imposing Padres lineup. He put the Phils in an immediate 3-0 hole, allowing a two-run homer to Adrian Gonzalez and a run-scoring single to Matt Stairs--who then, hand to God, stole a base. The Phils looked to have a threat going in the bottom of the inning when Shane Victorino singled and Placido Polanco reached on an error, but settled for just one run after Chase Utley and Ryan Howard both grounded out to the right side. They were more opportunistic in the second, however; with Raul Ibanez on first and one out, Juan Castro hit a sure double play ball to shortstop, but former Gold Glover Gonzalez couldn't handle the relay throw, allowing the inning to continue. Rattled San Diego starter Kevin Correia then melted down, as Blanton followed with a single under the glove of third baseman Chase Headley, Victorino walked, Polanco knocked in two runs with a single to left to tie the game, Utley walked, and Howard singled in two more with a liner off the glove of second baseman Lance Zawadzki to give the Phils a 5-3 lead.

Blanton couldn't hold it, allowing a run in the fourth on a Gonzalez RBI single and another when Nick Hundley led off the fifth with a solo homer that tied the game. In all, Blanton allowed 11 hits and struck out three in his five innings, needing 99 pitches to do so. But he was ably relieved by Chad Durbin (1.2 IP), J.C. Romero (0.2), Jose Contreras (0.2 on one pitch, a grounder to third by David Eckstein that Polanco turned into a 5-3-5 double play as Howard fired back across the diamond to nail Tony Gwynn Jr.) and Brad Lidge (another dominant 1-2-3). Unfortunately, the Phils squandered opportunities in the 7th, 8th and 9th against the very tough Padres bullpen.

As one might have expected, Danys Baez broke the run of good relief in the 10th. He allowed a single to Headley, who advanced to third on a sacrifice by Hundley and a groundout by Will Venable. Charlie Manuel ordered an intentional walk to Gwynn, but the move backfired when pinch-hitter Oscar Salazar singled to deep short, beating a long throw by Wilson Valdez.

The Phils delivered one last scoop of deep frustration in the bottom of the 10th. Facing shutdown closer Heath Bell, Polanco walked and Utley dunked a single into shallow center--where Gwynn, who had been playing deep, charged the ball and made a perfect throw to nail Polanco at third. Needless to say, Ryan Howard then followed with a single, moving Utley to third, before Bell absolutely blew away Jayson Werth on strikes to end the game.  

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