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Howard, Utley, Power Phils Past Twins

howard5 Howard, Utley, Power Phils Past TwinsRyan Howard homered twice and finished a single short of the cycle, as the Philadelphia Phillies got on a roll with a 9-5 defeat of the Minnesota Twins in the opener of a three-game interleague set.

Howard had his first multi-homer game of the season, while Chase Utley went 2- for-5 with a homer and four runs batted in for the Phillies, who have won three in a row.

It is Philadelphia’s first winning streak of at least three games since mid- May, right before the club fell into a nearly month-long tailspin. From May 18-June 13, the Phillies went 8-16, dropped out of first place and were shut out six times.

They were beaten by the Yankees on Tuesday in the opener of a three-game set in the Bronx, but won the final two to take the series and rode Utley and Howard to Friday’s victory. The Phillies have scored 22 runs in their last three games.

Friday’s offensive effort helped Joe Blanton (2-5) take the win, as he gave up three runs on seven hits and three walks in six-plus innings.

Twins starter Nick Blackburn (6-4) had his shortest start of the season to get the loss. In 1 2/3 innings, he allowed a season-high eight runs.

Nick Punto hit a two-run homer, while Delmon Young went 3-for-4 for the Twins, who were coming off a series win against Colorado.

The Phillies got their scoring started with their first batter, Shane Victorino, who walked, stole second, moved to third on a groundout and scored on Utley’s base hit to right.

Utley scored when Howard hit a ball down the right field line to the corner for a triple, and Howard came home on Jayson Werth’s sacrifice fly for a 3-0 lead.

In the second, a one-out Wilson Valdez single and two-out walk by Victorino put two on for Placido Polanco, whose base hit to center plated Valdez. Utley made it a 7-0 game when he slugged a low-and-in fastball to right for his 11th homer of the season.

Howard kept the pressure on by crushing Blackburn’s first pitch, a curve in the zone, over the wall in right-center field. It was the second time the Phillies have hit back-to-back home runs this season, with the other time being Wednesday, when Howard and Werth did it.

Blackburn walked Werth before being lifted, but the damage had been done.

Blanton didn’t allow a hit through four innings and was helped by his defense in keeping the Twins’ offense in check. His first hit allowed came in the fifth, when Jason Kubel hit a ball deep to center. Kubel tried for an inside- the-park home run, but was tagged out at home by Carlos Ruiz after a relay throw from Utley.

In the home fifth, Howard led off by hitting a fastball over the center field wall, pushing the Phillies’ lead to 9-0.

Michael Cuddyer’s run-scoring single in the sixth got the Twins on the board, and they got two more runs in the seventh. Young led off with a single before Punto hit a high changeup into the right field seats for his first homer of the year and 13th of his career.

Blanton was removed then as Chad Durbin came in and retired the next three batters. J.C. Romero pitched a scoreless eighth, and Scott Mathieson took the mound for the Phillies in the ninth in his first major league appearance since 2006.

It didn’t go smoothly, as he loaded the bases with one out before allowing a run to score on a wild pitch. Another run scored on an Orlando Hudson groundout before Brad Lidge got the final out.

Game Notes

Howard recorded the 24th multi-homer game of his career, second all-time in Phillies history…Mathieson was recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Thursday. He had not pitched in the majors since 2006 as he struggled with injury, undergoing two Tommy John surgeries…Hudson was activated from the 15-day disabled list Friday. He had been on the DL since June 8 (retroactive to May 31) with a left wrist sprain and went 0-for-5 in Friday’s game. To make room on the roster, the Twins placed reliever Jose Mijares on the family medical emergency list…Ruiz did not catch the ninth inning after being hit in the head by a broken bat in the top of the eighth…Cuddyer and Punto each had two hits for Minnesota, which began a nine-game road trip.

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