PHILADELPHIA — Joe Blanton avoided the bad inning that's been haunting him, and Brad Lidge prevented a complete meltdown by the bullpen.
Blanton, a former Kentucky Wildcats standout, had a career-high 11 strikeouts in seven scoreless innings, Lidge got the final out with the tying run in scoring position, and the Philadelphia Phillies held on to beat the Florida Marlins 5-3 Tuesday night.
Blanton (3-3) allowed five hits in his best outing since last August. He lowered his ERA from 7.11 to 6.14.
"He was aggressive," Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel said. "He made good pitches when he had to. He went right after hitters. He wasn't trying to trick them."
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Lidge pitched out of jam in the ninth to earn his ninth save in 13 chances. Lidge, who was 48-for-48 last year, including the post-season, blew consecutive save opportunities against the New York Yankees last weekend.
"That was big," Manuel said. "He needs some outings where he gets people out."
Shane Victorino had four hits and Pedro Feliz had two hits and two RBI for the NL East-leading Phillies, who have won nine of 12.
Marlins starter Andrew Miller (1-2) gave up four runs — two earned — and seven hits in six innings.
"I kind of put us in a hole," Miller said.
Chad Durbin retired one batter in the ninth and left after loading the bases. Scott Eyre came in and got Ross Gload to hit a grounder to first baseman Ryan Howard, who made a wild throw to second that allowed two runs to score. It was Howard's first error this year.
Lidge entered with runners at second and third. He walked Emilio Bonifacio to load the bases again. After Jeremy Hermida's RBI groundout to first made it 5-3, Lidge struck out Wes Helms to end it.
"We were trying to get their closer up and we got him in the game, so good for us," Marlins Manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
Pitching in short sleeves on a cold, damp night, Blanton looked nothing like the pitcher who struggled the first two months. Only one runner reached third base against him. He retired 11 of his last 12 batters, fanning five of the final six.
Blanton hadn't pitched this well since last Aug. 8, when he allowed no runs and one hit in seven innings of a 2-0 loss to Pittsburgh.
"I knew I was close," Blanton said. "I got myself into some good pitching counts."
The Phillies quickly jumped ahead in the first, taking a 3-0 lead. Jimmy Rollins started the inning by reaching safely on shortstop Hanley Ramirez's throwing error. Victorino doubled and Chase Utley walked to load the bases.
Miller then walked Howard to force in a run. Raul Ibanez followed with a sacrifice fly. After Jayson Werth struck out, Feliz drove in another run with an infield single to make it 3-0.
Victorino's two-out RBI double in the sixth gave the Phillies a 4-0 lead. Feliz had an RBI double after Werth doubled with two outs in the seventh off reliever Christopher Leroux, who made his major league debut.
Blanton pitched out of a two-out jam in the second, retiring Miller on a grounder to shortstop to leave the bases loaded.
"Blanton was terrific," Gonzalez said.
■ Blanton's previous high was 10 strikeouts while pitching for Oakland against the Angels on Aug. 31, 2005.
■ Blanton allowed four or more runs in five of his first eight starts.