CLOSE

Now Commenting On:

Phillies on a roll as they take on Pirates

Phillies on a roll as they take on Pirates

PHILADELPHIA -- It's been a week of smiles for the Phillies.

They swept the Mets. They recorded their biggest win since 1900, a 22-1 thrashing of Cincinnati on Monday. Chase Utley and Raul Ibanez were voted to the All-Star Game, Ryan Howard was selected as a reserve by manager Charlie Manuel and Shane Victorino made the team via the Final Vote. Rumors have swirled that Pedro Martinez might be heading to Philadelphia.

So the Phillies would like to carry their recently reacquired swagger into the All-Star break, which would require a strong three-game series against the last-place Pirates. If Joe Blanton can come close to replicating his previous outing, then Friday night's series opener at Citizens Bank Park should be smooth sailing.

More

The 28-year-old right-hander outdueled two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana on Sunday, tossing 7 1/3 innings of shutout ball. Like his brethren in the Phils' rotation, Blanton has improved with the weather. His 4.69 ERA might not win him national accolades, but it looks better than 8.41 on April 27 or 7.11 on May 21.

Indeed, Blanton has thrown six quality starts in his past eight outings, going 3-1 with a 2.61 ERA over that span.

"I'm kind of where I want to be," Blanton said Sunday. "I'm throwing all four pitches and trying to attack the zone, and I feel like I'm in a decent groove."

Pitching matchup
PHI: RHP Joe Blanton (5-4, 4.69 ERA)
In his previous outing against the Mets and Johan Santana, Blanton looked like the better pitcher. He tossed 7 1/3 innings of shutout ball, allowing just four hits and striking out five. His fastball was consistently around 88-91 mph, although he reached the mid-90s during some crucial at-bats. He also benefited from some quality defense behind him. In his lone career start against Pittsburgh, he threw seven scoreless innings and struck out seven, receiving a no-decision.

PIT: LHP Zach Duke (8-7, 3.28 ERA)
It wasn't his sharpest of outings, but Duke still managed to make another quality start his last time out. His two-strike wild pitch actually ended up being his biggest mistake, as it allowed what turned out to be the winning run to score. Duke continues to get no support in his losses, though. In his seven losses, he's been provided a total of eight runs of support. He's made quality starts in five of those seven losses. Duke is 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA in three career starts against the Phillies.

Tidbits
Utley and Jayson Werth each hit their 20th home run of the season Thursday. Howard and Ibanez had already reached that plateau, making the Phillies the second team in Major League history to have four players with 20-plus homers at the All-Star break. The Blue Jays accomplished the feat in 2000. ... Utley's only other career inside-the-park shot also came against the Reds, on Sept. 25, 2005. ... With Wednesday's 3-2 win, the Phillies improved to 3-4 in walk-off decisions and 10-10 in games decided in the final at-bat.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• CSN

On radio
• WPHT 1210, WUBA 1480 (Español)

Up next
• Saturday: Phillies (Cole Hamels, 5-5, 4.70) vs. Pirates (Ross Ohlendorf, 7-7, 4.63), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Phillies (J.A. Happ, 5-0, 3.04) vs. Pirates (Virgil Vasquez, 1-2, 4.50), 1:35 p.m. ET
• Monday-Wednesday: All-Star break

David Gurian-Peck is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less