Just when you think you know this game, there is a night like last night.
A night with extraordinary performances from unexpected places.
A night where a struggling pitcher was lights out and an aging slugger lit it up.
It was the kind of night that reminds you why you keep watching a team that is three games under .500, mired in last place.
Big Joe Blanton lived up to his name last night giving his team a “big” win when they needed it the most. Blanton had a 9.91 ERA since May 19th, the highest in baseball, having allowed five or more runs in each of his last five starts. But last night, he was, well, brilliant, pitching his second complete game of the season to get the Phillies a badly needed 5-1 victory against the Minnesota Twins.
It was the first time in two weeks that the Phillies have won two games in a row and their first series victory since they took two of three from the Mets on May 28-30. To say ‘Big Joe’ came up big would be an understatement. ‘Big Joe’ was huge last night.
Jaw-dropping Fact: The only Phillies pitchers with complete games so far this season are Joe Blanton with two, including a complete game shutout, and Kyle Kendrick with a complete game shutout of his own.
But the real story of this nine game interleague road trip has been the man they call, ‘Gentleman Jim.’ But he has been anything but to opposing pitchers lately. He had a career-high nine RBIs in this three-game series against the Twins and his stats for this road trip so far are staggering. He is hitting .458 (11-for-24) with two doubles, three homers, 13 RBIs, three walks and seven runs scored in six games as the Phillies’ designated hitter.
Jaw-dropping Fact : Thome’s home run last night was the 607th of his career and his 99th with the Phillies. If he hits one more with the Phils, he will become only the fourth player in baseball history to have 100 home runs with three different teams (Indians, White Sox and Phillies).
Jim Thome is 41 years, 291 days old, but who’s counting? After a start to the season where he went 2-for-20 with 11 strikeouts, followed by a stint on the DL, the consensus was that his storied career might be over. But apparently ‘Gentleman Jim’ and his bat still have a few more tales to tell.
And judging by the reaction of the fans in visiting ballparks, giving Thome ovation after ovation, we’ll all be happy to sit back, watch and listen.