For most of the season, the Phillies have gone through the Washington Nationals the way one imagines bloated umpire Joe West going through a box of Ring Dings. Wednesday night was no different, as the Phils cruised to a 6-1 victory behind the strong pitching of Joe Blanton and the late power heroics of Jayson Werth to run their season mark against the Nats to a lofty 14-3.
Clubbed by Washington for eight runs in 4 2/3 innings last week, Blanton tiptoed through some early trouble in Wednesday's game, stranding five runners through the first two innings. He recovered to strike out the side in the third, and finished with seven Ks in his six shutout innings of work while allowing five hits and walking four. For the second straight night, the Phils were aided by egregious Washington base running: Ian Desmond was caught off third base on a Livan Hernandez bunt in the second, Justin Maxwell was doubled off first on a lineout to end the sixth, and Cristian Guzman was doubled off second an inning later. Washington finally got on the scoreboard with two outs in the ninth, as Willie Harris singled in Maxwell, ending the Phillies' streak of 26 2/3 scoreless innings.
By then, the outcome wasn't much in doubt. The Phils, who ran the bases as well as their opponents did badly, notched a first inning run when, with Chase Utley on third and Ryan Howard on first, Howard took off for second and Washington catcher Wil Nieves fired to the bag a fraction of a second too late. Utley broke for home as soon as the throw was released, scoring without a throw. It was the club's second steal of home this season, following Werth's theft against the Dodgers in May. Otherwise, Nats starter Livan Hernandez was effective once again, surrendering only a sixth inning run on a Pedro Feliz fielders' choice that Desmond threw away, allowing Raul Ibanez to score. An inning later, the Phils added four runs, all with two outs, on an Utley hit-by-pitch, walks to Howard and Ibanez, and Werth's slam into the left-center field seats on a 1-2 Jason Bergmann offering.
With the win, the Phils maintained their seven-game lead over the Marlins in the NL East and lowered their magic number to 11. Cole Hamels goes tomorrow night in pursuit of the sweep.