Though they have one of the major league's best lineups, the Philadelphia Phillies have had their share of problems at the plate. However, they have had little trouble scoring runs at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
After losing a key NL East series, the division-leading Phillies look to win their sixth straight home game against the Pirates when the teams open a three-game series Friday night.Philadelphia (62-52) is second in the NL in runs (563), but it has scored three or less in 39.5 percent of its games, going 9-36. The Phillies had homered in 14 straight contests before losing 3-0 to Florida on Thursday.They have been held to 17 runs in six games this month, going 3-3, after scoring 40 during a five-game winning streak to close July."Some days we score a lot of runs, some days not," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "We've just got to get on a roll."Thursday's defeat reduced Philadelphia's division lead over the second-place Marlins to 1 1/2 games. The New York Mets are two games behind.After losing two of three against Florida, the Phillies will try to bounce back against a Pirates team that has given up three runs in its last two games. But Philadelphia has been outstanding at the plate en route to five straight home wins versus Pittsburgh (52-62), averaging 7.4 runs and batting .333.This will be the first meeting between the teams at Citizens Bank Park this season. Pittsburgh has lost all four of its series in Philadelphia since taking two of three games there in 2003.Phillies second baseman Chase Utley is batting .367 (11-for-30) with five doubles and seven RBIs in his last nine games against the Pirates at Philadelphia. He extended his hitting streak to 11 games Thursday, but his single was one of only four hits by the Phillies.Joe Blanton (1-0, 4.80 ERA), who takes the mound for Philadelphia on Friday, didn't need much run support in his last start, allowing four hits and one run while striking out five in seven innings in a 2-1 win over St. Louis on Saturday night.Blanton won for the first time since joining the Phillies in a mid-July trade with Oakland. He's 6-12 overall and had a 6.65 ERA in his previous 12 outings, going 3-6.This will be the right-hander's first appearance against Pittsburgh.The Pirates will counter with Paul Maholm (7-7, 3.95 ERA), whose best start of the season was against the Phillies. He pitched a two-hitter in a 5-1 win over Philadelphia on April 27.Maholm is 3-1 with a 4.67 ERA in four starts against the Phillies.The left-hander, though, struggled in his last outing, allowing five runs and eight hits in six innings as Pittsburgh lost 5-1 to the Chicago Cubs on Saturday. He had given up two runs or less in five of his previous six starts.Maholm goes to the mound following teammate Jeff Karstens' two-hitter in the Pirates' 2-0 victory over Arizona on Wednesday.Pittsburgh won despite playing without center fielder Nate McLouth and catcher Ryan Doumit. Both are expected back in the lineup after getting a day off.McLouth hit three home runs in three games versus Philadelphia at Pittsburgh from April 25-27, but the Phillies won two of those contests.