NEW YORK -- The Phillies suffered a major blow Tuesday when they placed Roy Halladay on the disabled list.
He could miss six to eight weeks (or more) recovering from a strained right latissimus dorsi.
In the meantime, the Phillies need their healthy starters to perform to keep them competitive while $55 million sits on the disabled list in Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Halladay. But Joe Blanton did not handle the task well Tuesday in a 6-3 loss to the New York Mets at Citi Field. He allowed nine hits, six runs, two walks, two home runs and struck out four in five-plus innings to take the loss.
"Oh, I'm concerned about our starting pitching now," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "[Heck], yeah. There's concern there, but at the same time these guys are getting a chance to pitch. And if they get a chance to pitch, they get a chance to hold us and do a good job for us and see if we can't hold the fort down until we get everybody healthy. That's kind of how I look at it."
Blanton started the season 4-2 with a 2.81 ERA in his first seven starts, which had Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee feeling optimistic while talking about his rotation in the visitors' dugout before the game. But after Tuesday's debacle, Blanton has a 12.51 ERA in his last three starts.
The right-hander is now 4-5 with a 5.05 ERA overall.
"It's so bad that you can't even get mad, really," Blanton said. "That's really how I feel. I don't know. That's about the only way I can put it. It's that bad that I can't even get mad."
In light of Halladay's injury after saying just recently he felt healthy, it was worth asking Blanton if he is healthy. He missed most of last season because of an injured right elbow.
"Physically, I'm good," Blanton said. "I feel like the ball is coming out decent. It's just command. That's 100 percent the problem. That's what's killing me."
This is the not the change of fortune the Phillies need from Blanton. Not right now. Not with Halladay on the DL.
But Blanton said the starters aren't feeling any extra pressure knowing Halladay could miss the next two months.
"I don't believe so," he said. "We've got some good pitchers over here. It's just about going about our business still. Minus my last three games, if everybody throws the way we've been throwing, we just have to keep doing the same thing and we'll be OK."
Blanton hit Mets center fielder Mike Baxter with his first pitch of the game, which was a sign of things to come. He allowed two runs in the inning, with a little help from Shane Victorino, who stumbled on his way to a ball that fell for a hit. But after Brian Schneider hit a solo homer to right to tie the game in the second, Blanton allowed another run in the bottom of the inning to give the Mets a 3-2 lead.
It got worse from there.
He allowed a solo home run to left field to Mets pitcher Jeremy Hefner in the fourth to give New York a 4-2 lead. It was Hefner's first hit in the big leagues. Blanton allowed his second double of the night to Omar Quintanilla in the sixth, and Scott Hairston, pinch-hitting for Hefner, hit a two-run homer to left to make it 6-3.
Blanton has allowed eight home runs in his last three starts after allowing two in his first seven.
"Command," he said. "Literally, I didn't hardly give up any homers in the first seven games. I was able to make pitches down and somewhat on the corners. Right now, when I'm trying to get a pitch down on the corner, it's like middle-in and up, or middle-in and way up. Or just middle. Really, the command is just not there right now. I thought I had it fixed. I had a good bullpen session before this game. It just didn't translate over. I kind of have to start over and try to find it."
The game had an ugly feel to it, even before a 64-minute rain delay in the eighth. Not only did Blanton struggle, but the offense wasted a golden opportunity to tie the game in the sixth inning. Juan Pierre singled and scored on Hunter Pence's double and an error from Baxter in left, which allowed Pence to reach third with nobody out.
But Ty Wigginton grounded out to first base, Victorino struck out swinging on a fastball well out of the strike zone, and Placido Polanco flied out to left field to strand him there. The Phillies entered the night the worst team in baseball scoring a runner on third with less than two outs, accomplishing the task just 39 percent of the time.
The big league average is 50 percent.
"I wish I could fix that," Manuel said. "The only way we're going to fix it is by starting to knock them in. That's the only way I know. We can talk about that, get out there in BP and hit the ball the other way, work on hitting a fly ball any way we want to, but you've got to execute in the game. We're leaving some guys out there, and we've been leaving them out there since Day 1."
But that was just one run. Blanton gave up six after giving up 13 in his previous 8 2/3 innings over his last two starts. They will need better from him next time.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.