LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ryan Howard hit the ball out of the park for the first time this season and Joe Blanton kept the ball in the yard for the first time in more than two months.
As a result, the Philadelphia Phillies have their first three-game winning streak since late May.
Howard homered leading off the fourth inning for his first RBI in six games since coming off the disabled list and Blanton pitched eight effective innings to lead the Phillies over the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 on Monday night.
Howard, the 2006 NL MVP who averaged 132.7 RBIs over the previous six seasons and led the NL three times with 140 or more, missed Philadelphia’s first 84 games because of the ruptured left Achilles tendon he sustained while grounding out to end last year’s NL division series against St. Louis.
“It was definitely big, and it was something that was very meaningful today because we won,” Howard said. “I feel good. Now it’s just a matter of getting back into the flow of playing at this level, making adjustments and slowing myself down at times. Sometimes I get to be too quick.”
Jimmy Rollins also went deep and Jonathan Papelbon retired pinch-hitter Adam Kennedy on an easy popup with a runner at third to end it. Papelbon pitched a scoreless ninth in his Dodger Stadium debut, posting his 20th save in 22 attempts.
Next, the last-place Phillies get ace Roy Halladay back from the disabled list Tuesday night after missing seven weeks with a lat injury. The two-time Cy Young Award winner hasn’t pitched in the majors since May 27 at St. Louis, when he lasted two innings and gave up a grand slam to Yadier Molina during an 8-3 loss.
“It gives us a lot of hope,” Howard said. “I mean, you have to forget what happened in the first half. We just have to keep doing what we’re doing right now as a team and as a unit. The goal for us right now is just to go out and win a series, no matter who’s on the mound.”
Blanton (8-8) allowed two runs and six hits, struck out seven and walked none while helping the Phillies win three straight games for the first time since a four-game stretch May 23-26. The right-hander did not give up a home run for the first time since May 8 against the New York Mets, after 11 consecutive starts in which he allowed at least one for a total of 19 overall.
The Dodgers have the second-fewest homers in the majors, just one more than San Francisco.
“Keeping the ball down was a big difference. Lately I’ve had a little bit of trouble doing that as consistently as I did tonight,” said Blanton, who threw 80 of 110 pitches for strikes. “I try to throw as many strikes as I can and expand the zone a little bit when I get ahead in the count.”
Juan Rivera led off the seventh with a single and scored on Blanton’s two-out wild pitch to Bobby Abreu. Blanton, however, retired Abreu on a fly ball and set down the side in order in the eighth, striking out Matt Kemp on a checked swing at a ball in the dirt.
“He was throwing all his pitches for strikes — sinkers in, cutters in,” Dodgers shortstop Luis Cruz said. “He pitched a really good game. He had his stuff today, spotting every pitch he threw.”
Nathan Eovaldi (1-6) allowed three runs and six hits in five innings before he was removed for a pinch-hitter. The 22-year-old right-hander was moved up a day in the rotation along with Chris Capuano because of an injury to Chad Billingsley, scratched from Sunday’s start because of inflammation in his right elbow.
Capuano, who was scheduled to start the opener of this three-game series, lost 7-2 to San Diego after the Dodgers made five errors and gave up six unearned runs.
Juan Pierre, who spent three seasons with the Dodgers and was pushed out of a starting role in 2008 after the acquisition of Manny Ramirez, opened the scoring for the Phillies in the second inning with a two-out RBI single. Rollins made it 2-0 in the third, driving a 3-2 pitch into the left-field pavilion for his ninth homer.
“I left it over the plate,” Eovaldi said. “I’ve been falling behind too often. I fall behind too many times, it’s a predictable count. Even when I was ahead, I didn’t put the batters away as quickly as I should.”
Howard, who flied out to the left-field warning track his first time up, homered to left on Eovaldi’s first pitch of the fourth to make it 3-0.
“I didn’t know if the first one would go out. I just tried to make some solid contact, but I flew out at the warning track, so I knew we weren’t in Colorado anymore,” Howard said. “I just tried to come up my next AB and make something happen.”
NOTES: The victory was the Phillies’ 900th against the Dodgers during the regular season since the rivalry began back in 1890. The Dodgers have beaten them 1,144 times. They’ve also met in the postseason five times, with the Dodgers winning NL championship series in 1977 and 1978, and the Phillies winning the NLCS in 1983, 2008 and 2009. … Blanton is 7-0 with a 2.05 ERA in eight starts this season when pitching seven or more innings. In his other 10 starts, he is 1-8 with a 7.67 ERA. … Howard needs six extra-base hits for 500 in the majors. … The Dodgers, who swept a four-game series at Philadelphia during the first week of June, have lost six straight to thePhillies at home.