Joe Blanton hasn’t pitched in 20 days, but right now, a big chunk of the Phillies season rests in his right hand. After dropping games one and three to the San Francisco Giants, the Phillies find themselves down two-to-one in games and needing a win in game four to send it back to the big three and Joe Blanton is the guy they’re depending on to deliver the win.
There was some thought that Charlie Manuel might go with Roy Halladay on short rest if the Phillies lost game three, but after the defeat, Manuel said that he didn’t even visit that idea in his head and that Joe Blanton would make the start Wednesday night in San Francisco. Halladay has actually pitched well on short rest, but if Blanton were dropped from the rotation, Halladay would have to pitch twice on just three days rest and Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels would each have to pitch once on short rest. Not an impossible feat, but certainly something that would have to be considered not in the best interest of the club.
So, with that in mind, Blanton, who is 2-0, 4.13 in six post-season appearances – five starts – with the Phillies gets the start against the Giants. This season, Blanton made one start against the Giants and pitched a strong 6 1/3 innings, giving up just two runs in a game at Citizens Bank Park. In his career, Blanton has a 4.73 ERA against the Giants, but that shrinks to just 3.57 in three starts at AT&T Park.
Blanton may actually be just the sort of pitcher that the Phillies need. After seeing the harder, sharper pitches of Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels, Blanton will bring more of a low-key approach to the mound and may be able to keep Giants’ hitters off-balance with his curve and his softer, slower arsenal.
Before his three-week hiatus, Blanton was actually one of the more effective pitchers in the rotation during the second-half of the season. From July 21 on, Blanton was 6-0 in a stretch that included his outing against San Francisco. He’s also been the Phillies game four pitcher through most of the time that he’s been a Phillie, including a mediocre start against the New York Yankees in the World Series last fall when the Phillies trailed that series 2-1.
Would the odds of beating San Francisco increase if Halladay were on the mound tonight? Well, considering that the guy is likely to be the National League Cy Young winner, of course they would. But there have also been concerns about Halladay’s work load late in the season and he’s entering innings pitched numbers that are even out of his usual stat set. Now, to ask him to pitch twice on three days rest before the club even gets to the World Series, would be asking a lot. Instead, the Phillies will have Blanton on a very short leash tonight and all will hope that the offense finds a way to get itself reloaded.
As for their opponent, 21 year-old Madison Bumgarner, has never faced the Phillies. Generally, the Phillies don’t fare too well against guys they’ve never seen and with their offense already sputtering, Bumgarner could be in a spot for a nice outing. Having said that though, Bumgarner is a hard-thrower who generally comes right at hitters and those are generally the types of pitchers that don’t last too long against this Phillies lineup.
Fans must hope that the Phillies offense shows up and combines with a decent enough outing from Blanton to give the Phillies the means of evening the series at two-games-each.