PHILADELPHIA (AP) -Pitching in front of a sellout crowd during a playoff chase suits Ricky Nolasco much better than empty minor-league stadiums.
Nolasco pitched seven sharp innings, Nick Johnson and Cody Ross hit solo homers and the Florida Marlins beat the Philadelphia Phillies 3-2 Friday night.
Fresh off getting swept by last-place Washington, the Marlins snapped a three-game losing streak in the opener of a crucial series for them against the NL East-leading Phillies. Florida moved within six games of Philadelphia, which has lost six of nine.
``I don't look at it as pressure, but I knew we needed a win,' Nolasco said. ``It was a tough series in Washington. We understand this is a big series.'
Ben Francisco hit a two-run homer for the Phillies, who got another strong outing from Joe Blanton (7-6). He gave up three runs and eight hits in 6 2-3 innings, and has allowed three runs or less in eight straight starts.
``They jumped on me quick and got me out of rhythm,' Blanton said. ``I was pitching a lot with guys on instead of cruising along. They did a good job. They had a great approach at the plate.'
Nolasco (8-7) allowed two runs and four hits, striking out seven, and has been outstanding since returning from a brief stint in the minors. Florida's opening day starter was demoted to Triple-A New Orleans on May 23 after going 2-5 with a 9.07 ERA. He's 6-2 with a 2.58 ERA in 12 starts since being recalled.
``He changed speeds on us, threw some breaking balls and we didn't do a whole lot off him,' Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. ``His command is good.'
Renyel Pinto pitched a scoreless eighth, escaping a jam by striking out Ryan Howard with two runners on before Raul Ibanez bounced out to end the inning. Leo Nunez finished for his 10th save in 13 tries.
Johnson drove a 2-2 pitch into the seats in right for a 1-0 lead two batters into the game. Hanley Ramirez followed with a double and scored on Dan Uggla's two-out double.
Ross hit the first pitch in the second out to center to make it 3-0, giving him 19 homers, three shy of his career high set last year.
Blanton left with two outs and two runners on in the seventh. Chan Ho Park entered and allowed a single to Ramirez, but right fielder Francisco threw out Chris Coghlan at the plate to end the inning.
Francisco then cut the deficit to 3-2 in the bottom half when he followed Ibanez's single with a high drive that just cleared the left-field wall. It was his first homer since joining the Phillies in the trade that brought Cliff Lee to Philadelphia from Cleveland.
``That homer is an out in most parks,' Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
The Phillies had runners at first and third with no outs in the second but couldn't push a run across. Francisco flied to shallow center and Greg Dobbs lined out. After Carlos Ruiz walked, Blanton grounded out.
``The bottom line is we've got to knock him in,' Manuel said.
NOTES: The Phillies inducted Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas into the team's Wall of Fame. Kalas died in the broadcast booth in Washington on April 13. Known for his signature ``Outta here!' home run calls, Kalas joined the Phillies in 1971. Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt was the main speaker at the pre-game event. ... Phillies All-Star CF Shane Victorino wasn't in the starting lineup because of a quad injury. He's day-to-day. ... Philadelphia's Jimmy Rollins went 0 for 4, ending his 12-game hitting streak ... Johnson's homer was his first with the Marlins. ... Howard has struck out 18 times in the last 10 games.
The Associated Press News Service
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