Lucas Harrell felt as though he had his best stuff. It just wasn't good enough to defeat Joe Blanton and the Philadelphia Phillies.
Blanton pitched seven-plus strong innings and Placido Polanco homered for his 2,000th career hit to lead the Phillies to a 5-1 win over the Houston Astros on Monday night.
Harrell left after allowing three runs — two earned — on five hits in 5 2/3 innings, with three strikeouts and two walks.
"He pitched great," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "He kept us close. He did a really good job. He's very competitive and he wants to be out there and he will be out there."
The right-hander was noticeably upset when he left the field and in the dugout.
"I was pretty frustrated," Harrell said. "That's the best I've thrown the ball all year, hands down. I had good location and thought everything was really working tonight. I'm out there competing and the guys are competing, too. I had some frustration built up."
The Phillies took a 1-0 lead in the fifth inning on Freddy Galvis' RBI single. Philadelphia was helped in the frame by shortstop Jed Lowrie's fielding error on John Mayberry Jr.'s grounder up the middle, making the run unearned for Harrell (2-3). The Phillies could have added to the advantage, but stranded the bases loaded on Juan Pierre's groundout.
Philadelphia went up 3-0 in the sixth on Carlos Ruiz's single to left that scored Shane Victorino, who opened the frame with a triple, and Galvis' opposite-field single. Galvis' hit came off Wilton Lopez, who relieved Harrell.
Rather than walk Galvis and load the bases for Blanton, Mills elected to pitch to Galvis. And the rookie who is filling in for injured All-Star Chase Utley (knee) at second base, made Houston pay with an opposite-field liner that scored Polanco.
The three-run margin was too much to overcome for the Astros, who managed just seven hits off four Phillies pitchers.
"Early in the year, we talked about runners in scoring position," Mills said. "Now we're talking about getting guys on base."
Marwin Gonzalez, pinch hitting to lead off the eighth, hit his first major league homer for the Astros' lone run.
Carlos Lee went 3 for 4 for Houston, which has lost six of eight after a season-best five-game winning streak. Lee, who recorded all three hits off Blanton, now is 9 for 18 lifetime against the Philadelphia pitcher.
But the Astros couldn't do much else against Blanton (4-3), who allowed six hits and one run, struck out seven and walked one while pitching in a steady light rain throughout. The right-hander continued his solid recent stretch, improving to 3-0 with a 2.10 ERA in his last four starts.
"He threw the ball well," Mills said. "He got the breaking ball over when he wanted, too, and had a good fastball."
Said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel: "He got there pretty easy. He's pitching real good."
It's been quite a turnaround for Blanton, who missed most of last season with an elbow injury that limited him to 41 1/3 innings and eight starts. But the time away proved beneficial — both physically and mentally.
"Physically, I feel better than I have in a couple years and mechanically, too," he said. "I'm having fun with the game again. You feel like a kid again after missing so much time. It's nice to be out there and contribute to help us win games."
Blanton got a lift from a Philadelphia offense that has been subpar for much of the season, but has come on lately.
Galvis had three hits and drove in a pair of runs and Ruiz went 2 for 4 with an RBI for the Phillies, who have won three of four since manager Manuel's much-publicized team meeting last Wednesday.
The highlight, of course, was Polanco's eighth-inning homer that allowed him to reach the milestone.
"It means a lot, means I've been around for a while," Polanco said. "However, I'm not thinking about that. I'm trying to win games and hopefully a championship."
Added Blanton: "It shows you're good and good for a long time. That's impressive to see."
The Astros nearly got on the board twice against Blanton, with Lee, in the fourth, and Brian Bogusevic, in the sixth, just missing homers down the left-field line.
Altuve followed Gonzalez's homer in the eighth with a single to left, ending the night for Blanton. But Philadelphia relievers Antonio Bastardo and Chad Qualls combined on a scoreless eighth, and Jonathan Papelbon tossed a scoreless ninth, striking out the side, in a non-save situation.
Polanco reached his milestone with a two-run homer, his first off the year, to left field off David Carpenter in the eighth.
"I knew I hit it pretty good and hoped it dropped somewhere," Polanco said.
Notes: Opponents have one hit in their last 23 at-bats against Bastardo. ... The Phillies' crowd of 43,824 was the 221st regular-season sellout and 237th straight including postseason play. ... The Astros dropped to 32-21 against the Phillies since 2004, still the only NL club with a winning record against Philadelphia during that span. Houston also is the lone NL club with a winning record at Citizens Bank Park, going 16-11 against Philadelphia since the park opened in 2004. ... Galvis, batting .231, now has 15 RBIs on just 25 hits.