Tag Archives: Joe Blanton

Say It ‘Aint So, Joe

4 Aug

But alas it is.  Joe Blanton became the latest victim of the Phillies payroll purge yesterday as he was traded to the LA Dodgers where he will join fellow ex-Phil Shane Victorino.  Who needs a Trade Deadline?  Certainly not Ruben Amaro, Jr. who continues undaunted in his trade-happy ways.  I wonder who’s next?  Hey, I heard the Phillie Phanatic brought his suitcase to the ballpark last night.

But back to Big Joe.  Now I know it’s easy to overlook Joe Blanton.  There has been no outcry about his departure.  Perhaps it’s because after the trades of Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence, fans are resigned to the inevitable.  Maybe it’s because Big Joe has spent the last three years in the shadows of the big four, now three, aces.  Perhaps the reaction matches Blanton’s laid back style.  But whatever the reason Joe deserves better.

He came to the Phillies in a Trade Deadline deal in 2008 courtesy of former GM Pat Gillick.  His arrival, like his departure, came without fanfare.  Most fans were hoping for a bigger name.  “Joe who?”  was the most often heard refrain.

But Blanton was a critical part of the Phillies 2008 rotation, going 4-0 down the stretch, helping the Phils win the NL East, positioning them for their historic playoff run.  And he wasn’t finished.  Joe was 2-0 in the 2008 postseason including his most important win as a Phillie in Game 4 of the World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays.

But the lasting memory most of us will always have of Big Joe is not for his pitching but for his big hit also in that memorable Game 4.  In the fifth inning Blanton blasted his first ever (and so far only) major league home run as the Phillies went on to win 10-2 to take a commanding 3-1 series lead.

Overall, Blanton appeared in 105 regular season games for the Phillies earning a 34-25 record.  This season he has 8 wins, second only to Cole Hamels among Phils starters.  He leads the National League in strikeouts to walks ratio.  And many may be surprised to learn that Blanton has been the most successful second half pitcher in the majors during the last four years with a 17-5 record.  Not bad for a guy who most fans had never heard of when he arrived.

So today we must say goodbye to yet one more piece of that magical 2008 World Series team.  In fact, of that 25 man roster, only 6 are now left:  Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz, Cole Hamels, and Kyle Kendrick.

So here’s a big thank-you to Big Joe who will always have a big place in this fans heart.

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Time Running Out?

29 Jul

Not much to say about last night’s effort, if you can even call it “effort.”  The best I could do was this haiku:

Joe Blanton was great

But no offense sealed his fate

The hour grows late

Running (Or Walking) Out of Time

28 Jul

Apparently the Phillies hot streak only had about a half inning left in it as they scored one run in the first inning and then went downcast night 6-1 to the Braves. Damn that off day.

And speaking of off days, Cole Hamels, who just signed the most lucrative contract in Phillies history, picked a bad day to have one.  Hamels walked a career-high six batters, throwing more balls (56) than strikes (53) for the first time in his career when he has thrown 100 or more pitches.

Ironically Hamels, who just signed a $144 million deal, was  beaten by Ben Sheets who three weeks ago signed a deal of his own, a Minor League contract with the BravesSheets, having retired from the game two years ago, was coaching his son’s baseball team.  But since his call-up by the Braves Sheets has been outstanding allowing just one run in 18 innings.  He is 3-0 since his return to the majors.

So it was not the start the Phillies or Hamels were hoping for as they entered arguably their most important series of the season against the Atlanta Braves.  Prevailing wisdom is that the Phillies have to win at least  two out of three to maintain even the slimmest hopes of competing for a playoff spot down the stretch.

Perhaps it should have been expected that Hamels might not be at his best after all the hype surrounding his new signing.

Perhaps the pressure and relief got to him.

Or perhaps it was just the humidity that took its toll on the newly minted millionaire.  (Hamels had to change his jersey and undershirt twice during the game.)

Well, whatever the reason, now it’s our turn to sweat as the Phillies’  hopes and their season will rest in the hands of…

Big Joe Blanton.

But in a year when the Phillies aces haven’t lived up to that billing, somehow that seems appropriate.  (Remember the first press conference with the four aces and Joe two season ago when all the assembled media forgot that Hamels wasn’t the only one with a World Series ring?  That in fact Joe Blanton had been a “Big” reason that the Phillies won it all in 2008?)

So perhaps we have come full circle.  Blanton, who has had two consecutive strong starts including a win in which he allowed only two runs and six hits in eight innings, will be on the mound tonight for the Phillies in their most important game of the season.

And you know what?

I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Monday Morning Musings

23 Jul

Monday mornings are hard enough as it is so I thought I’d start your week off with some good Phillies news for a change.  Here are some happy headlines you may have missed.

Walk-off Win

The Phillies, who have lost 13 times this year on the other team’s last at-bat turned the tables yesterday with a walk-off win of their own.  Jimmy Rollins‘ 12th inning single scoring Carlos Ruiz from third gave the Phillies a 4-3 victory and prevented a series sweep by the Giants.  Coming into yesterday’s game, the Giants had been 4-0 on the road in extra inning games and the Phillies were only 2-9.

How Do You Spell Relief?

Usually not with the Phillies middle relievers this season but yesterday, the  much-maligned bullpen really came through, even without closer Jonathan Papelbon, unavailable after throwing 36 pitches in Saturday night’s loss. But Antonio Bastardo struck out the side in the ninth and Jeremy Horst and Kyle Kendrick combined for a scoreless 10th, 11th and 12th to give the Phillies the chance for the win.

 Big Joe coming up “Big”

Joe Blanton continued what has quietly been a  strong season for the Phillies right-hander making his fourth quality start in his last five outings, holding the Giants to three runs on seven hits over eight innings. He struck out six and walked just one on an intentional walk.  In nine starts when pitching seven innings or more this year, Blanton has posted a 2.21 ERA.  And in todays ‘surprising stat department,’ guess who has the best strikeout to walk ratio in the National League?  Yep, none other than Big Joe.  Blanton’s 108-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio is even better than teammate and perennial contender in that category, Cliff Lee (106-22).

Aloha 

Shane Victorino became the first Hawaiian-born player to reach 1,000 career hits on Saturday with a line-drive single in the 6th inning.  Victorino, in his seventh full season with the Phillies, also leads all Hawaiian-born players in runs (583), doubles (181), triples (63) and stolen bases (183).  That is quite an accomplishment for the “Flyin’ Hawaiian” and it’s nice see some positive news for Victorino who has struggled this year and lately been the subject of much trade speculation.

 King Cole  

And speaking of trade speculation, nobody has been a bigger target this year than Phillies star lefty Cole Hamels.  And nobody has handled it better.  Cole has calmly and consistently given the “right” answers to the trade questions that have been following him since Spring Training.  He was given a deserving warm standing ovation by the home crowd on Saturday as he left the mound for possibly his last time as a Phillie.  I, for one, hope that’s not the case.

Well, there you have it.  I hope this good news is the start to a good week for all of you.

Three’s the Charm

17 Jul

Don’t look now but the Phillies have their first three game win streak since May 19th.  And they won last night’s game the old-fashioned way:  good starting pitching, just enough offense to get the job done and a scoreless ninth from Jonathan Papelbon.

Now that’s not so hard, is it?

Let’s hope not because the Phillies will need a lot more games like that one to keep this team intact as the Trade Deadline approaches.

And it wasn’t Lee, Halladay or Hamels providing that good starting pitching last night but Joe Blanton who allowed six hits, two runs, no walks and struck out seven in eight innings to improve to 8-8.  He looked in control from the start, which seems to be the key for Big Joe.  In fact, he pitched five scoreless innings before allowing a run.

Another great sight to see was Ryan Howard hitting his first home run.  In his first at bat it looked like he might have one but it was just a deep fly ball to the track but the next time he left no doubt with an opposite field blast that turned out to be the winning run as the Phillies beat the Dodgers 3-2.

Does this mean the Phillies are back?

With Roy Halladay taking the mound tonight will the win streak continue?

Will Ryan Howard now go on a late-season tear like he used to?

Who the heck knows?

There will be no great predictions from me.  All I can say is that it’s nice to watch some winning baseball for a change (or listen to it while I’m pretending to try to sleep) and I’m just going to enjoy that for as long as it lasts.

Tonight, the “Doc-” tor is in the house!

Big Joe and Little Jimmy

26 Jun

He is the second winningest Phillies pitcher with 7 wins trailing only Cole Hamels who has 10.  In fact at 7-6, he is the only other starter with a winning record.  Who would have thought that on June 26th, Joe Blanton would have more wins than Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay?  In fact, get ready for this one, Big Joe has more wins than Halladay (4) and Lee (0) combined.

That in a nutshell tells you everything you need to know about this crazy Phillies season.  It’s not always pretty but somehow Big Joe gets the job done.  Last night he had eight strikeouts and only allowed two earned runs in seven strong innings to give his team a much needed win.  After the game, Joe was almost philosophical.

“Hopefully we’ll start something fresh. All winning streaks start after a loss. Hopefully we can get something good going.”

OK, I said almost.  And for a team that has had more experience with losing this season than winning, it never hurts to state the obvious.  It also never hurts to have a red-hot Jimmy Rollins in your line-up.

After a slow start that had many questioning his new multi-million dollar contract, J-Roll has come on strong in the month of June.  Last night, he hit his 4th home run in as many games.  This one came on a 3-0 green light from manager Charlie Manuel.

“[Manuel] gave me the green light, so I swung,” Rollins said.

And Jimmy has certainly earned that green light the way he’s been hitting the ball lately.  Rollins is hitting .343 with 10 doubles, two triples, seven home runs, 18 RBIs and 21 runs scored in the 25 games since May 28.  That’ll get you a lot of green lights.

So on we go.

Maybe Big Joe will be right and it will be the beginning of a winning streak.

Maybe J-Roll will ignite the rest of the team with his hot bat.

Maybe Chase Utley will be the psychological boost the Phillies need to go on a second half run.

Yep, that’s a lot of maybe’s but a girl can dream, right?

Big Joe and Gentleman Jim

15 Jun

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.

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