PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joe Blanton said he pitched better, but it still wasn’t good enough.
Blanton gave up a home run to Miami pitcher Carlos Zambrano and was pulled after six-plus innings Sunday as the Philadelphia Phillies fell to the Marlins 5-1.
In his last four starts, the right-hander is 0-3 with a 10.98 ERA while allowing 10 homers in 19 2-3 innings.
“You never want to give up five runs but I felt like it was a huge improvement over the way I threw the last two to three times, even though the results don’t look much better,” Blanton said. “I felt like it was a lot better.”
Blanton (4-6) allowed five runs and nine hits. He wasn’t helped by a struggling Philadelphia offense that had just six hits, and the Phillies dropped to 0-21 in games in which they trail after seven innings.
“I’m going to tell you something, when we get down 4, 5, 6 runs, yeah, it is hard for us to come back,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “We used to come back much easier because we could hit the ball out of the yard more consistently. We had more guys who could hit the ball out of the yard.”
One of those players is Chase Utley, who along with slugger Ryan Howard has been out all season with injury. Utley said following Sunday’s game he will begin a rehab assignment on Monday in extended spring training in Clearwater, Fla.
“I’m excited about the progress I’ve made the last few months and taking the next step,” said Utley, sidelined by an injured left knee. “I’m excited that I’m feeling better and that I have an opportunity to go down and keep working and keep advancing how things have felt here.”
A five-time All-Star, Utley gave no timetable for a possible return to the Phillies.
Philadelphia certainly could have used Utley against Zambrano.
Zambrano (4-3), who said he was pitching with the flu, allowed four hits, walked two and struck out seven before leaving with two outs in the eighth to win for the seventh time in nine games.
“He continued to throw the ball very well,” Miami manager Ozzie Guillen said. “He threw a lot of strikes and his breaking ball was outstanding.”
Jose Reyes went 2 for 5 with a double and two RBIs to extend his hitting streak to 14 games.
Juan Pierre went 3 for 4 with an RBI for Philadelphia, which lost its second straight.
“He chopped us up pretty good today, we never could get any pressure on him,” Pierre said of Zambrano. “He just did a great job today.”
Zambrano said his flu symptoms included a headache, sore throat and weak feeling.
“My arm felt good and that’s the most important thing,” he said.
Heath Bell came on with two on and one out in the ninth and got a pair of groundouts for his 12th save in 16 chances.
In the third inning, Zambrano hit the first pitch he saw to deep left for his first homer of the season and 24th of his career to give Miami a 1-0 lead. Zambrano leads all pitchers since 1974 with 24 career home runs. A switch-hitter, Zambrano batted from the left side against Blanton.
“As a pitcher in the National League, you have to be able to bunt, run, hit and I take that seriously,” Zambrano said. “I’m proud of what I do anytime on the mound. When I’m on the mound I feel like a pitcher, but when I’m in the box I feel like a hitter.”
Ramirez led off the fourth with his third homer in two games to put the Marlins up 2-0. In his last six games, Ramirez is 12 for his last 24 with four homers and three doubles.
Miami tacked on three runs in the seventh. Zambrano reached on a perfectly placed bunt single down the third-base line, loading the bases with no outs. Reyes followed with a two-run double to right-center that gave Florida a 4-0 lead and ended the day for Blanton.
Florida went ahead 5-0 when Zambrano scored from third on a wild pitch by right-hander Chad Qualls.
Zambrano retired 13 straight batters between the second and sixth innings, ending when Pierre doubled with one out in the sixth. Pierre reached second on a slap bunt down the left-field line that eluded charging third baseman Ramirez.
Pierre’s eighth-inning two-out RBI single to center scored Brian Schneider for the Phillies’ lone run.
Shane Victorino singled in the Phillies ninth, finishing 1 for 4 and now has four hits in his last 30 at-bats over the last nine games.
NOTES: The Philadelphia crowd of 45,356 was the 231st consecutive regular-season sellout and 247th straight counting postseason play. … The Phillies are scheduled to face Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw (4-3, 2.42) when they open a four-game series at 7:05 Monday night. … Phillies RHP Vance Worley (3-2, 3.07) was activated from the 15-day DL following the game and C Erik Kratz was optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Worley is expected to start Monday’s game.
(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)