Blanton Strong, But Phils Drop One in Extras

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The Phillies nearly pulled out their second walk-off win of the season on Monday night, but couldn't muster that one big hit and fell to the Milwaukee Brewers in 12 innings by a score of 6-3.

It was a strange night at Citizens Bank Park, perhaps due to the full moon hovering in the night sky, or more likely, because baseball is an ever unpredictable sport that rears it's peculiar head in bunches. This night was no exception.

Things started off well for the Phillies, as they scored a run in the first on an RBI single by Ryan Howard to lend support to Joe Blanton, who was still searching for his groove after two rough outings to start the season.

He appeared to have found it, much to the chagrin of the Brewers, who were only able to muster a pair of runs off the right-hander, who dealt seven strong innings of seven-hit ball. He walked one and struck out four.

Meanwhile, the Phillies were held in check by Milwaukee right-hander Shaun Marcum, who prevented them from doing much of anything over six innings of ball that saw him give up one unearned run on five hits, while striking out five.

That's when things started to get weird.

After Wilson Valdez reached on an error from Milwaukee third baseman Casey McGehee, Ross Gload – a left-handed hitter who is more likely to pull the ball – hit one just inside third base to left, moving Valdez just 90 feet away from tying it up. Shane Victorino then followed with a chopper to first that allowed Valdez to score to tie it at two.

Placido Polanco, who is as hot a hitter as anyone, hit a screaming liner that was ticketed for center field, except that it hit the pitcher, where it then ricocheted right into the glove of a diving Yuniesky Betancourt, who was threw to second for the easy double play to end the inning and the Phillies' rally.

With the score tied at two, Ryan Madson took the hill for the Phillies and allowed a leadoff single to Ryan Braun, who was followed by Prince Filder – a left-handed hitter – who made like Ross Gload and hit a grounder just inside the third base bag for the cheap double to put runners on second and third with nobody out. After a popup, Braun would score on a groundout from Betancourt, and Madson would strike out Jonathan Lucroy two batters later to end the inning.

Flash forward to the bottom of the ninth, and the Phillies went to work on the Brewers' closer, John Axford, who promptly walked Carlos Ruiz to start the frame. Following a sacrifice bunt from Wilson Valdez, pinch-hitter Pete Orr hit a liner to left-center that scored Ruiz to tie the game. With a runner on second, Shane Victorino chased ball four for the second out, and after a four-pitch walk to Polanco, Jimmy Rollins popped out to end the inning.

It was a lot of back and fourth over the next two innings, with both 'pens throwing up scoreless frames while giving the opposition very little to work with.

That's how it went until the 12th inning, when the Phils called upon Kyle Kendrick. The righty, who was the center of a prank that saw him get “traded” to Japan before the 2008 season, probably wished that he was 3,000 miles away after his outing.

He walked the first batter he faced on four pitches, and it somehow only got worse. When all was said and done, Kendrick allowed one hit, three runs (two were unearned), and walked three to put the Phillies in a 6-3 hole that they would be unable to overcome.

It was the first game of the season to last longer than three hours for the Phillies, their first extra inning game, and their fourth straight series-opening loss. The last time they won a series opener in 2011? Opening Day.

Despite the ending that made just about everyone wish they would have lost it in the ninth, there was some good to come from this game, most notably in the form of Joe Blanton, whose seven strong innings is hopefully a sign of things to come.

Notable: J.C. Romero left the game in the top of the ninth with what is being reported as a strained right calf. No immediate word on whether or hit he will miss any significant time.

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