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Blanton, Phils continue to scuffle in Boston

Blanton, Phils continue to scuffle in Boston

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BOSTON -- The Phillies have tried almost everything to snap their nearly four-week funk.

Manager Charlie Manuel held a meeting in New York on May 26.

He has juggled the lineup and benched players.

  • 134 wins
  • 118 wins

But as the losses and frustrations mounted, the players called a players-only meeting before Saturday's 10-2 loss to the Red Sox at Fenway Park. One veteran player said the meeting shouldn't be judged on Saturday's score, but the question begged to be asked: What is left to try if this doesn't work?

"It was just a discussion that was needed more than anything," said Phils center fielder Shane Victorino, who would not divulge details of the meeting. "It wasn't a meeting as a panic meeting."

If the Phillies aren't panicking, their fan base is getting close, if they're not already teetering on the edge. They are 7-16 since May 17, which is the second-worst record in the National League. They have not hit for weeks. And less than 24 hours after Jamie Moyer suffered the worst start of his career, allowing nine runs in one-plus inning in a 12-2 loss to the Red Sox, right-hander Joe Blanton gave up nine runs in four innings.

It was the first time since July 15-16, 2007, the Phillies allowed 10 or more runs in consecutive losses.

It was the first time since July 8-9, 1993 that Philadelphia starters allowed nine or more runs in consecutive games. Danny Jackson allowed 11 runs in 4 2/3 innings in a 13-2 loss to the Giants at Veterans Stadium on July 8, 1993. Ben Rivera allowed nine runs in one inning in a 15-8 loss to the Giants the next day.

"It doesn't matter where you playing -- if you give a team eight, nine runs real early that's hard to overcome," Manuel said.

The Phillies took a 2-0 lead in the second inning, which is not noteworthy except it was the first time they had scored before their opponent in 12 games.

But Blanton gave it back in the bottom of the inning. He allowed a leadoff home run to J.D. Drew down the right-field line. He then loaded the bases, allowing singles to Adrian Beltre, Jason Varitek and Darnell McDonald.

Daniel Nava, an undrafted prospect the Red Sox signed out of an independent league in January 2008, stepped into the batter's box for the first plate appearance of his big league career.

First pitch.

Gone.

Nava became just the fourth player in baseball history to hit a grand slam in his first big league plate appearance, and the second to hit a grand slam on his first big league pitch.

"You have a young kid who's never played a day in the Major Leagues, to do that, the whole ballpark, this is probably only something that happens in Boston," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.

The way things have gone lately, it seemed only fitting it happened against the Phillies.

Blanton allowed three more runs in the third and one more run in the fourth for one of the worst starts of his career. It was the third time in his career he had allowed nine or more runs. Blanton is 1-5 with a 7.28 ERA after eight starts. He started last season 2-3 with a 7.11 ERA through eight starts before finishing 10-5 with a 3.16 ERA in his final 23 starts.

"I felt like I started [the season] off great," Blanton said. "I just had bad luck. Now the past couple games have been the case. I've been pretty terrible."

Blanton has company as the Phillies go through a stretch that has defied explanation.

Thus the players gathered in the batting cage before the game.

"It was just a matter of time," Victorino said of the talk. "Like, hey, why not? Get everybody's thoughts. Get everybody's minds together. Get everybody's feelings of where we're at. You know what I mean? Not so much, let's find an answer because there is no answer. If there was an answer, we would have found it three weeks ago."

The Phillies had a five-game lead in the National League East after a 12-2 victory over the Pirates on May 17. They now sit in third place, at least three games behind the Braves. They will try to avoid a sweep Sunday against the Red Sox before they open a three-game series against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday.

"Let's try to figure something out," Victorino said.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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