Phillies' Blanton Proves to Be a Wise Investment in Game 4

By Mark Viera
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, October 27, 2008

PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 26 -- By any statistical measure, Joe Blanton has been an average major leaguer throughout his career.

In 98 starts before this season, Blanton owned a 42-34 record and had an ERA of 4.10. But those figures were nullified upon his arrival here on July 17. Blanton has gone 6-0 in 16 starts, including three postseason appearances, since joining the Philadelphia Phillies.

Blanton, an unlikely hero, had an anything-but-ordinary performance in Game 4 of the World Series on Sunday night, an effort that will be remembered for a long time in this city.

He allowed two runs on four hits with seven strikeouts and two walks over six-plus innings -- and hit a home run -- in his first World Series appearance on Sunday as the Phillies won, 10-2, at Citizens Bank Park. Philadelphia now has a 3-1 series lead against the Tampa Bay Rays.

"I don't have to really think about anything, almost be a machine," Blanton said, crediting his success to catcher Carlos Ruiz.

Blanton was acquired from the Oakland Athletics as an addition to deepen the Phillies' rotation. He has returned on the investment. Blanton went 4-0 in the regular season with a 4.20 ERA as a Phillie. This postseason, he is 2-0 and has a 3.18 ERA.

In the fifth inning of Game 4, Blanton added some flair to his postseason. He deposited a high fastball into stands in left field. He became the 15th pitcher to hit a home run in the World Series, and the first to do it since Oakland's Ken Holtzman in 1974.

Asked when he last hit a home run, Blanton said: "Just probably a senior in high school. That was probably the last time I hit before I even got here. As far as the batting goes, I just close my eyes and swing hard, in case I make contact."

Blanton commanded his breaking pitches and worked efficiently until he was removed in the seventh inning. He did not face more than four batters in an inning until the sixth. Blanton worked ahead in the count and used his breaking pitches, including a biting slider, as his out pitches against Tampa Bay batters.

He made it look so easy at times, and Rays Manager Joe Maddon raised concerns about a dark splotch -- questioning whether it was pine tar or another sticky substance -- on Blanton's hat with plate umpire Tom Hallion.

"They rub the balls up with whatever they rub them up with, and you rub it up and get it on your hand," Blanton said. "And I'm constantly trying to get moisture and just touch my hat. It's nothing sticky."

Although Blanton was mostly effective against the Rays' lineup, he hit one batter and allowed the runs off two solo homers. Carl Crawford drove a tight inside pitch over the wall in center field in the fourth inning, and Eric Hinske hit a pinch-hit homer in the fifth.

But when he walked off the field in the seventh inning, Blanton received an explosion of cheers. The Phillies had a four-run lead in hand, and were on their way to a commanding hold of this series.

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