Chase Utley told everyone he wasn’t hurt and backed it up with a strong all-around performance.
Utley homered, Ryan Howard went deep twice and the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Minnesota Twins 9-5 on Friday night.
Utley had two hits, drove in four runs and played outstanding defense after denying before the game that he’s injured. First base coach Davey Lopes told Baseball Prospectus that Utley “has been hampered by a little bit of a knee injury.”
“It’s always nice to get results, get on base and help the team win,” Utley said.
Joe Blanton (2-5) threw six effective innings for the Phillies, who have won three straight and four of five after a 5-14 skid dropped them into third place in the NL East.
Howard went 4 for 4 with three RBIs and set a career high with four extra-base hits, falling a single short of the cycle.
“We know the scouting report and we know what we’re supposed to do,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Tonight we just didn’t execute anything against him. He’s a great hitter. You throw the ball up there like we did to him, he’s going to hit it.”
Nick Punto hit a two-run shot for the AL Central-leading Twins.
Blanton gave up three runs and seven hits. The right-hander didn’t allow a hit until Jason Kubel led off the fifth with a triple and was thrown out by Utley trying to stretch it into an inside-the-park homer.
Nick Blackburn (6-4) allowed eight runs and six hits in 1 2-3 innings in his shortest outing since last Aug. 11.
“I left some balls up,” Blackburn said. “Every time I left a ball up, it was hit.”
Utley admitted he has occasional pain in his right knee, but emphasized it’s not serious and isn’t the reason for a terrible slump that has plagued him since late April.
The four-time All-Star second baseman showed no signs of any injury running the bases or playing defense. He made a diving grab to rob Denard Span of a hit in the third, and turned a nifty double play after barehanding shortstop Wilson Valdez’s toss in the sixth.
“He comes to the ballpark and works as hard if he gets no hits,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “I know he’s going to hit because he works so hard.”
The Phillies scored three runs off Blackburn in the first and chased him with five in the second.
Utley lined an RBI single to right, Howard ripped a run-scoring triple into the right-field corner and Jayson Werth’s sacrifice fly made it 3-0.
That was a nice cushion for Blanton, who entered with a 7.28 ERA and only had two quality starts among his first eight outings.
“You have a little wiggle room to attack the zone, but you still don’t want to change your approach,” Blanton said.
Each of Philadelphia’s runs in the second came with two outs. Placido Polanco hit an RBI single before Utley connected for a three-run shot. Howard drove the next pitch deep into the right-field stands.
Utley had gone 88 at-bats since his last homer on May 20 against Chicago. It was the second time in three games and second time all season the Phillies had consecutive homers.
Howard hit one to straightaway center off Ron Mahay in the fifth for his 24th career multihomer game and first of the year.
Scott Mathieson allowed two runs and recorded two outs in the ninth for Philadelphia in his first appearance in the majors since 2006. He had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow twice and missed all of 2007 and 2008.
NOTES: Phillies C Carlos Ruiz was taken to the hospital for an exam after getting hit in the head with a broken bat in the eighth inning. There was no immediate word on his injury. He walked off the field on his own. … Phillies SS Jimmy Rollins, sidelined by a calf injury, was expected to play nine innings for Single-A Clearwater on Friday and Saturday. He could rejoin the team soon barring a setback. … Phillies RHP Ryan Madson threw 25 pitches in his first bullpen session since breaking his right toe on April 28. … Shane Victorino’s steal in the first was the first against Blackburn in 101 2-3 innings, dating to last Sept. 11. … Utley came in batting .229 with four homers and 12 RBIs in 47 games since April 23. … Michael Cuddyer started at 3B for the Twins for the first time since 2005. … A crowd of 45,120 was the 72nd straight sellout at Citizens Bank Park.


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