Joe the Pitcher

Monday, October 27, 2008

For anybody who has not been watching the Phillies in the playoffs this season they are unaware of how well mid-season acquisition Joe Blanton has played. The guy has done nothing but win and with last night's victory he helped the Phillies step one game closer to bringing the city of Philadelphia their first taste of champagne since 1983.

The 10-2 victory in game four by the Phillies was blown wide open late in the game when Ryan Howard capped off the night with his second home run of the evening, scoring two after Jayson Werth had hit a two run home run earlier in the eighth inning. Having no need for Brad Lidge in the rout of the Rays, J.C. Romero closed it out in relief. Winning early in the morning in game three the Phillies showed no signs of sleep deprivation and jumped out to a 2-0 lead early.

Jimmy Rollins got things off on the right foot with a lead off double in the bottom of the first and was the beneficiary of a blown call when the third base umpire missed a tag from Evan Longoria during a run down between third base and home plate. While Rollins got away with "missed tag" the Rays could have had an inning ending double play if they had used proper baseball logic. As a result the bases were loaded on the fielder's choice and Pat Burrell worked a walk off of Rays pitcher Andy Sonnanstine to force Rollins home for the 1-0 lead. The Phillies left the bases loaded but in the end it would not matter.

Leading 2-1 in the fourth inning the Phillies took a firm grip on game four when Ryan Howard blasted an opposite field home run scoring three runs with Rollins and Werth on base. The Rays responded in the top of the fifth by getting one run back on a bomb to dead center field from pinch hitter Eric Hinske but Blanton was unfazed. In the bottom of the same inning Blanton would smack his first career home run, getting the run back all by himself. If you see a replay of the Blanton home run, the first home run in a World Series by a pitcher since 1974, just watch the sheer joy on Blanton's face. It is classic. He must have known he hit it out of the park when he made contact, judging by his face.

When Blanton's night was done he had recorded six full innings of work, allowing two runs on four hits, striking out seven and walking two. Chad Durbin, Scott Eyre, Ryan Madson and Romero combined to work the final three innings without letting Tampa Bay cross the plate. Some of the "experts" told you before the World Series started that the Rays had the decisive advantage in pitching. You were told that Cole Hamels aside, the Rays have the better starting rotation. You were also told by many hat the bullpen of the Rays was better. Say what now?

While Blanton pitched a solid game it was the offense that carried the team in game four. Rollins has been on fire since returning home to Philadelphia. Going 3-5 last night it was Rollins who set the table for the offense. Howard hit two home runs for five RBI's. Only Burrell and Shane Victorino failed to get a hit. Showing patience at the plate was once again successful for the Phillies on offense. Rays pitchers only struck out the Phillies four times. Conversely the Rays struck out 12 times.

So here we are, the Phillies one game away from a championship. Game five will see baseball's best pitcher this post season when Hamels takes the mound for the Phillies in the key role. Is there anybody else Phillies fans would want to see pitching tonight? Let me answer that for you.

Not a chance.

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