WASHINGTON – Joe Blanton has been designated "the other guy" amid the Philadelphia Phillies' star-studded quartet of starting pitchers, and so far this season, he hasn't done anything to shed that label.
Blanton labored against the light-hitting Washington Nationals, allowing five runs and seven hits in six innings as the Phillies lost 7-4 Tuesday night.
After two lackluster starts, Blanton (0-1) has an ERA of 10.45 and more job scrutiny as the fifth starter in a rotation full of aces.
"They hit some balls hard. They outplayed us, that's the bottom line," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "(Blanton) looked to me like in the first inning he came out pretty good. Then they just started — he's pitched against them quite a bit. They know him."
Blanton blamed his troubles on a mechanical issue that arose while pitching from the stretch.
"I'm giving up a lot of hits with runners on, which is never good," Blanton said. "So, I have to make an adjustment there. It's not mindset or anything like that. It's really just the physical execution is not there the same way it is out of the wind-up. I've got to figure that out."
Ryan Howard led off the second inning with a homer to left, his third of the season.
Jayson Werth had a big night in his first appearance against Philadelphia since leaving the Phillies as a free agent and signing a $126 million, seven-year contract with the Nationals this winter. He doubled to lead off the fourth inning and later scored, starting a three-run inning that gave the Nationals the lead for good. Werth's solo home run in the fifth gave Washington a 5-1 lead.
"Anytime you hit a home run you're going to have some satisfaction. Was it extra special against those guys? Probably a little bit," Werth said. "I was just trying to perform well for Charlie. He hasn't seen me play in a while."
Manuel agreed that Werth appeared fired up to play his former teammates.
"I'm sure he was excited to go against us," Manuel said. "He played like that. He was intense."
Phillies fans made up a large percentage of the sparse crowd at Nationals Park, and they booed Werth each time he came to bat — or fielded a fly ball in right field.
Livan Hernandez (1-1) allowed one run on seven hits, struck out six and didn't walk a batter in 6 2-3 innings. He also picked up a sacrifice-bunt RBI as the Nationals won for the fourth time in five games.
"He just knows how to pitch, that's why he's been successful and why he's been doing it for so long," Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino said. "It's not like he's throwing 95, he's topping out today at 85 but he knows how to mix his pitches up. When he throws like that, he's an excellent pitcher."
The Nationals tied the game 1-all in the bottom of the second on Danny Espinosa's sacrifice fly, and grabbed the lead in the fourth. Wilson Ramos doubled home Werth, and Washington loaded the bases on Laynce Nix's single and a walk to Espinosa. Jerry Hairston Jr. singled home Ramos, and Hernandez followed with a surprise bases-loaded sacrifice bunt to score Nix.
Washington increased the lead to 6-1 in the seventh when reliever Antonio Bastardo issued a bases-loaded walk to Ramos.
Philadelphia loaded the bases with one out in both the seventh and eighth innings. In the seventh, Hernandez struck out pinch-hitter John Mayberry on a 62 mph curveball, and reliever Tyler Clippard struck out Victorino to end the inning.
"I liked (Mayberry) there because the wind was blowing out to left field," Manuel said. "I thought maybe if we doubled or got one up in the air, that was about the only place we were going to have a chance to hit the ball out of the yard. But Livan threw him a couple of slow hooks there and he chased them."
NOTES: Before the game, Werth chatted with his old teammates in the tunnel behind the Phillies' dugout, near the indoor practice batting cages. "He looked the same to me," Manuel said. "Looked wealthier. I told him he had heavier pockets." ... Bastardo's walk to Ramos in the seventh marked the first run allowed by the Phillies' bullpen after 20 straight scoreless innings.