A pitcher that’s been lost in the midst of the Halladelphia and the acquisition of Cliff Lee over the last month. The low-key addition from last year that paid back huge dividends in the playoffs stepped up big time this July. I’m talking about Big #56, Joe Blanton.
Not only has Blanton been pitching well, but he’s been seemingly going up against the opposition’s ace every series. It all started on July 5th, as the Phillies worked against arguably the NL’s best pitcher, Johan Santana. Looking for a sweep of the damn Mets, Blanton outdueled Santana by going seven 1/3 strong innings and giving up only four hits. The Phils won 2-0 and completed their July 4th weekend sweep of the Mets. Needless to say, the Mets haven’t been the same since.
Five days later, the Phils were up against the Pirates. Big Joe put up nearly identical numbers up against Zack Duke, going another 7 1/3 while only allowing four hits. The only blemish was a first inning solo shot. Zack Duke may be no Johan Santana, but Blanton outdueled him as well.
After the all-star break, Blanton went up against Rich Harden of the Chicago Cubs. Harden was good (7 IP, 1 R), but so was #56. By throwing seven strong innings (I sense a theme here), Blanton held the Cubs to one run on five hits. This, of course, paved the way for a certain right fielder’s heroics in the bottom of the 13th that night.
Five days later, Blanton picked up his first start in a while against a pitcher other than the other team’s ace. Against the potent St. Louis lineup, fresh off aquiring Matt Holliday, it would be no easy task. How did Blanton respond? He scattered seven hits and two runs over eight innings in another Phillies win.
Move to last night, and who goes up against last year’s NL Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum? Who else? Blanton finally picked up a loss, his first in a month. It was certainly not a game he deserved to lose, especially considering how many runners the Phillies left on. He pitched well enough to win, with seven hits and two runs over seven innings. But, these things happen against the best pitcher in the NL.
In four of his last five starts, Blanton has faced Johan Santana (2.86 ERA), Zach Duke (3.26 ERA), Rich Harden (4.50 ERA), and Tim Lincecum (2.18 ERA). He’s been going up against quality starters, and turning in quality start after quality start. I’ll admit, I wasn’t a huge fan of Joe and the goatee when we picked him up from Oakland last year. He won me over big time this July.