Athletics 5, Phillies 2
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—Joe Blanton is figuring out what it takes to be a big league pitcher.
“I’m getting more comfortable with challenging hitters and getting ahead,” Blanton said. “You can get away with things in the minors but here if you don’t make your adjustments in a hurry you won’t be in the game very long.”
Blanton gave up two runs in the first inning but didn’t allow another hitter past second the rest of the way as he won for the third time in four starts.
Blanton sought out A’s pitching coach Curt Young after the rough start, and got a good tip.
“Early on I was dropping my arm a little bit,” Blanton said. “When I started getting back on top better, I got the ball down and that helped me.”
Blanton (3-6) has been a completely different pitcher since a six-start stretch in which he lost three games and had an ERA of 12.13. He has a 2.60 ERA in four games since; limiting the Phillies to a pair of runs in 7 2-3 innings Sunday. He gave up five hits while striking out a season-high seven and walking four.
“I started setting up middle of the plate to let his natural movement take over,” Adam Melhuse said. “He makes one adjustment and that’s all it takes. Rather than getting behind, we wanted to take it to them a little bit.”
Melhuse drove in two runs for the A’s, who won for the fifth time in seven games.
“Every time I play it’s a battle,” said Melhuse, who backs up Jason Kendall. “That first at-bat, I have to remind myself that’s not a batting practice pitcher. When you don’t play that much it’s tough to get a strike zone. Basically, I see the ball and hit the ball and try not to think too much.”
Jason Michaels had two RBIs for the Phillies, who have lost four of six after winning 12 of their previous 13 games.
“We just didn’t hit and the last two days we haven’t played very well,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
Jon Lieber (8-6) lost for the first time in seven day starts after allowing five runs and eight hits over 5 1-3 innings. He walked one and struck out six.
“They are a patient team and they work the count,” Lieber said. “When I made mistakes, they caught on.”
Michaels had been struggling on the road trip with one hits in his previous 13 at-bats. It was also his first RBI in two weeks.
Blanton kept the Phillies in check the rest of the way, retiring 20 of the final 25 batters he faced.
“It’s been bad the last couple of days,” Phillies outfielder Pat Burrell said. “It’s too bad because we’ve had some good pitching. We just didn’t get any breaks.”
Oakland got a run back in the fifth. Bobby Kielty and Dan Johnson singled to start the rally. One out later, Melhuse hit a comebacker. Lieber fielded the ball, took his time and threw low to second. Jimmy Rollins couldn’t handle it, and the ball dribbled into short left field, allowing Kielty to score from second.
Chavez led off the sixth with his 11th home run of the year to tie it 2-all. Scott Hatteberg followed with a single. After Lieber struck out Kielty, Johnson’s hit-and-run single sent Hatteberg to third. Keith Ginter singled home the go-ahead run and ended Lieber’s day.
“The last couple days I have been frustrated because I felt like I had a couple of pitches to hit,” Chavez said. “He tried to come inside with a cutter, a pitch he got me out on before, and I was able to get my bat on it.”
Blanton allowed a one-out double to Abreu in the eighth, and left after getting Pat Burrell to ground out. Ron Flores entered and retired Thome on a groundout.
“I don’t think I’ll ever get comfortable facing Jim Thome with the game on the line in the eighth inning but I’ve been in that situation in the minors,” Flores said. “But that was pretty fun.”
A’s closer Huston Street will miss several days with a slight hamstring strain. … Phillies RHP Tim Worrell (personal reasons) is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment on Tuesday. … Abreu has reached base safely in 20 consecutive road games. … A’s rookie OF Nick Swisher batted second for the first time in his career. … Lieber now has a 6-1 record in day games. … The A’s handed out a Father’s Day tie designed by LHP Barry Zito. … Blanton threw a season-high 116 pitches.
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