The Phillies are three games under .500 and are approaching the end of their ten-game home stand as they host the fourth place Houston Astros for a two-game series. Tonight, Joe Blanton (3-3, 3.24 ERA) will make his seventh start of the season as he takes on the Astros.
Blanton, who started off the season with a 1-3 record and a 4.34 ERA in his first four appearances (three starts), seems to have found his comfort zone on the mound. In his last three starts he's 2-1, with a 2.35 ERA and he has begun to prove that he may be finally healthy.
In Blanton's last start, he threw 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball against the Mets. He could not, however, make it out of the 7th inning after allowing base runners. The runners that he allowed managed to score against the Phillies' ailing bullpen. Blanton received the no-decision but he did strike out 7 during his outing. Blanton has pitched 21 innings against the Astros in his career, putting up a 1-0 record with a 3.00 ERA.
The Phillies' offense will take on the arm of righty Lucas Harrell (2-2, 4.58 ERA), who is making his eighth start of the season. Harrell did not factor into the decision in his last outing, pitching 5 1/3 innings against the Miami Marlins. Harrell gave up six hits and two earned runs in an extra-inning loss on Wednesday. Harrell has command issues as he has walked 16 total batters this year. Adjacent to his 19 strike outs, the Phillies can make a jump early by letting Harrell work up his pitch count.
The team played small ball yesterday with the exception of Jimmy Rollins' first homer of the year. It was also his 38th career leadoff home run. The Phillies managed 3 runs on 8 hits yesterday, but still stranded 19 men on base. It's those kinds of situations where they're hurting themselves. I don't have enough appendages to count how many times they have had a lead off runner in scoring position with no outs and still fail to get a run. It's got to change and they have to learn to play small ball more.
If the Phillies can work the count against Harrell, manage to get runners on, and find ways to score those runners. The Phillies should have no problem winning this game and future games.
Tonight's Lineup vs Houston:
TV: CSN / Radio: 1210 WPHT 94 WIP
Follow Erik Seybold on Twitter @ErikSeyboldPHI.