Phillies flatten reeling rival Mets

PHILADELPHIA – Ryan Howard and the Philadelphia Phillies knew they had a great opportunity to get back on track with a hurting New York Mets squad in town.

Boy did they take advantage.

Joe Blanton tossed four-hit ball into the eighth inning, and Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley each homered off Johan Santana, leading the Phillies to a 2-0 victory over the Mets on Sunday to complete a three-game sweep of their NL East rival.

The Phillies had lost 12 of 15 and had just been swept on the road by the Atlanta Braves, but they took advantage of the injury-ravaged Mets to earn their first sweep at Citizens Bank Park since taking three from the Nationals in late May.

“We wanted to try and take this because we know that team over there isn’t at full strength,” Howard said. “It’s July, but we want to take as many games as possible. We didn’t give extra outs. We didn’t make a lot of mistakes.”

The defending World Series champions pushed the third-place Mets four games back in the NL East, handing them their eighth loss in 11 games.

New York – playing without shortstop Jose Reyes, center fielder Carlos Beltran and first baseman Carlos Delgado – scored three runs in the series.

Blanton (5-4) retired the first seven Mets before Luis Castillo bounced a single over third baseman Pedro Feliz’s head. Castillo was sacrificed to second, but was stranded there on a diving stop by Howard, one of several fine fielding plays by the first baseman.

The righty allowed little else, striking out five and lowering his ERA to 4.69. His biggest challenge came in the sixth inning after an 11-pitch walk to Daniel Murphy loaded the bases and had him visibly frustrated with his control lapse.

After a quick visit to the mound from pitching coach Rich Dubee, Blanton induced David Wright to ground into a double play, started by Utley.

“That was a big play,” Blanton said. “With the bases loaded, I’m trying to make good pitches and hopefully get him to hit it on the ground for a double play. So I really got the result I wanted. It was a sinker and had pretty good movement and I got lucky.”