At their lowest point in a decade, the Phillies will look to even their series with the visiting Braves on Saturday night.
Out since tearing his left Achilles' tendon in Philadelphia's season-ending loss to St. Louis in the 2011 playoffs, Howard went 2 for 4 with a double in Friday's 5-0 series-opening defeat."It felt good, but the outcome didn't go the way we wanted it," said Howard, who isn't expected to start again until Sunday's series finale.
Philadelphia (37-48) has dropped eight of nine to fall 11 games below .500 for the first time since it was 23-34 on June 6, 2002.
"We have to go out and win series. If we can do that, we'll find ourselves in the mix," Howard added.
The Phillies will try to take a step back toward the break-even point with Blanton (7-7, 4.85 ERA) coming off his first loss in five starts.
The right-hander went six innings in Sunday's 5-2 loss at Miami, giving up three runs during his 107-pitch outing."If we go out and throw a good game, we have trouble scraping across a couple (runs) and that's just baseball," said Blanton, who has one of the highest run-support averages in the NL at 5.71. "Sometimes it goes that way."
The Phillies hope Saturday's game has a similar outcome as Blanton's last start against the Braves. He tossed a three-hitter in a 4-0 win at Atlanta on May 3, needing just 88 pitches and 2 hours and 2 minutes to complete his first shutout in five seasons.
Blanton will likely get his first look at Brian McCann this season after the Braves catcher was scratched in the right eye by teammate Michael Bourn when they were celebrating McCann's grand slam against Roy Halladay in Atlanta's 15-13, 11-inning home win over Philadelphia on May 2.
McCann avoided another high-five accident Friday when his eighth-inning grand slam off Antonio Bastardo lifted the Braves to their first win in Philadelphia in five tries."I love hitting with the bases loaded because they have to come at you," said McCann, who has homered in two straight games and is 8 for 21 with two home runs off Blanton.
Going for their first three-game win streak since June 19-22, the Braves will give the ball to Tommy Hanson (9-5, 3.70) on Saturday.
The right-hander, trying to reach double-digit wins for the fourth consecutive season, is 4-0 with a 3.00 ERA in his last five starts outside Atlanta.
Hanson, though, had his string of four consecutive winning decisions snapped with Monday's 4-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs .
The Braves had scored 28 runs while winning each of his previous five starts.
"I felt really good with my stuff. I was throwing strikes and getting ahead of guys," Hanson said.
That wasn't the case May 2 against the Phillies when he was tagged for four runs and eight hits in 3 2-3 innings.
Braves third baseman Chipper Jones , 7 for 20 with a homer off Blanton, is batting .432 (19 for 44) during a 12-game hitting streak.
Teammate Martin Prado will try to start a new hitting streak after his 11-game run ended Friday. Three of his seven hits versus Blanton have left the park.
The Braves have won eight of 11 on the road following a season-high five-game skid away from home.
|July 05, 2012||Jonny Venters||15-Day DL||Left elbow impingement|
|June 17, 2012||Brandon Beachy||15-Day DL||Right elbow surgery - out for season|
|June 16, 2012||Brandon Beachy||Day-to-Day||Left game - Right elbow soreness|
|June 13, 2012||Freddie Freeman||Day-to-Day||Left thumb discomfort|
|June 12, 2012||Eric O'Flaherty||Day-to-Day||Left elbow soreness|
|June 09, 2012||Tim Hudson||Day-to-Day||Bone spurs in left ankle|
|June 25, 2012||Brian Schneider||15-Day DL||Sprained right ankle - out 3-5 weeks|
|June 07, 2012||Freddy Galvis||15-Day DL||Lower back strain|
|June 05, 2012||Placido Polanco||Day-to-Day||Left game - left index finger laceration|
|June 02, 2012||Jose Contreras||60-Day DL||Torn UCL, right elbow - out for season|
|May 28, 2012||Roy Halladay||15-Day DL||Right latissimus dorsi strain|
|May 16, 2012||Placido Polanco||Day-to-Day||Left knee contusion|
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Michael Bourn celebrated his selection to the All-Star team with another all-around performance.
Tommy Hanson pitched effectively into the eighth, Brian McCann homered and the Atlanta Braves beat the struggling Philadelphia Phillies 6-3 Saturday night.
Bourn had three hits, scored twice and stole a base hours after learning he'll head to the Midsummer Classic to replace injured Washington infielder Ian Desmond .
"It's always an honor to be with those kind of players," Bourn said. "There's only a certain amount going. I'm just happy to sneak in there and I hope I can help the NL win the game."
The five-time defending NL East champion Phillies are freefalling since Chase Utley returned to the lineup, losing nine of 10. They just got Ryan Howard back on Friday night and have lost two in a row, though the former NL MVP didn't play in this loss.
"It's hard for us to win because we just don't play good enough," manager Charlie Manuel said.
Hanson (10-5) allowed three runs and six hits, striking out six in seven-plus innings. Eric O'Flaherty worked the rest of the eighth and Craig Kimbrel finished for his 24th save in 25 tries.
"I feel really good where I'm at right now," Hanson said.
Things are so bad for the last-place Phillies that even when they do something right, it looks ugly. Hunter Pence ran over third-base coach Juan Samuel on his way to scoring a run in the second inning.
In the seventh, All-Star closer Jonathan Papelbon made his biggest save of the season. Papelbon leaped from his seat and stopped a fan from climbing into Philadelphia's bullpen.
Phillies starter Joe Blanton (7-8) allowed six runs - five earned - and nine hits in 6 1-3 innings.
The start was delayed 58 minutes because of dark skies, lightning and threat of a thunderstorm.
McCann, who hit a grand slam in Friday's 5-0 win, crushed a 2-1 pitch way out to right to put the Braves up 1-0 in the second. It was the 20th homer allowed by Blanton, and that's most in the NL.
"It's a great yard to hit. I enjoy coming here," McCann said.
After the Phillies took a 3-1 lead in the second, Martin Prado 's RBI double with two outs in the third cut it to 3-2. The Braves went ahead with two more runs in the fourth.
Freddie Freeman and Chipper Jones started with consecutive singles. McCann lined an RBI single to right to tie it at 3. A fielding error on Pence allowed Jones to advance to third on the hit. He scored the go-ahead run on Andrelton Simmons ' sacrifice fly to right.
The Phillies scored three in the second, an offensive outburst for a team has 15 total runs in its last seven losses.
With two on and one out, Juan Pierre ripped a double to right. Pence took a wide turn around third, barreled into Samuel and kept going. A three-time All-Star during his playing career, Samuel ended up flat on his back and his helmet flew off. Players in both dugouts laughed, though the affable Samuel didn't seem too happy with himself.
After John Mayberry Jr. was intentionally walked to load the bases, Blanton lined an RBI single to right to give the Phillies a 2-1 lead. Another run scored on Jimmy Rollins ' fielder's choice grounder.
Simmons, the 22-year-old shortstop, made two outstanding defensive plays to help Hanson. Simmons robbed Placido Polanco of an infield hit by charging hard on a slow roller and making a quick throw to first. He later robbed Utley of a hit with a diving grab on a hard grounder up the middle. Hanson simply turned around and shook his head in admiration.
Prado's RBI single in the seventh put the Braves up 5-3. Bourn then stole a run to make it 6-3. Bourn ran home when Jason Heyward struck out and the ball got away. He charged toward the plate on catcher Carlos Ruiz 's throw to first and originally was credited with a steal of home, but the play was changed to a fielder's choice after the game.
Notes: Roy Halladay threw his third bullpen session before the game and could start a rehab assignment after the All-Star break. The two-time Cy Young Award winner may rejoin Philadelphia's rotation by mid-July. He's been sidelined since May by a lat strain. ... Blanton has allowed a homer in 11 straight starts after giving up just one in his first seven starts. ... Jones extended his hitting streak to 13 games. ... The Braves are 9-3 in last 12 road games and 25-17 overall, which is the best record in the NL. ... Atlanta 2B Dan Uggla , voted to start the All-Star game, is 9 for 92 and hitless in his last 19 at-bats, dropping his average to .220. ... The Phillies had their 263rd straight sellout, including postseason. ... Jair Jurrjens (2-2, 5.19) pitches for the Braves against Vance Worley (4-5, 3.46) in Sunday's series finale.
Rob Maaddi can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/RobMaaddi