Last season, when the Phillies traded prospects Josh Outman and Adrian Cardenas for Joe Blanton, I wasn't too impressed. A mediocre, non-innings eater coming from a pitcher-friendly ballpark? No, thanks. When Blanton went 4-0 for the Phils down the stretch, I lamented that he averaged less than six innings a start, and sported a 1.37 WHIP. When he pitched well in the playoffs, and belted a memorable homer for the WFC, the trade started to look a bit better.
Then Blanton started 2009, by posting an ERA of 8.41 in April. The trade looked horrible again, and only worse performances from Chan Ho Park and Jamie Moyer kept Blanton in the rotation. But J.A. Happ, Carlos Carrasco, and Andrew Carpenter were all waiting to snag rotation spots from the struggling veterans ahead of them.
On May 26th, Blanton turned his season around, with seven scoreless innings against Florida. Since May 26th, Blanton has made nine starts, only two of which were poor/fewer than six innings. He has pitched at least seven innings in six of those starts, including Friday night's 3-2 win over the Pirates. Blanton pitched seven and one-third innings, permitting only a single run, on four hits (one walk, six strikeouts). Blanton posted a 3.62 ERA in June, and has a stunning .61 ERA in July. That Joe Blanton trade was, truly, a masterful move. One of the best trades in franchise history, without a doubt. (Better than Rick Wise for Steve Carlton, you ask? Well, no. At least not yet...)
The Phillies' offense only contributed five hits on Friday, all from All-Stars (Shane Victorino had three hits, Jayson Werth and Chase Utley each had one). But they scraped together three third-inning markers, which proved sufficient. J.C. Romero relieved Blanton in the eighth, and retired all three batters he faced. Typically, Phillies' Manager Charlie Manuel will bring closer Brad Lidge at the beginning of the ninth. However, on Friday, he kept the southpaw Romero in the game to retire the left-handed LaRoche (Adam). Lidge was called in to retire the right-handed LaRoche (Andy). Manuel's bullpen machinations worked out very well on Friday. Well, at least until Lidge surrendered a two-out solo home run. After permitting a single to the following batter, Lidge secured the save, with a game-ending strikeout. Manuel has displayed some very promising thought processes this week, with the exception of his continued use of Eric Bruntlett and Paul Bako to appear in baseball games.
The Phillies play the Pirates again Saturday, with ace Cole Hamels picking up his eighth win. Raul Ibanez will homer, in his return to the lineup, and Ryan Madson will pick up the save. (Brad Lidge, having pitched in consecutive days, will have the day off.) Paul Bako will also extend his hitless streak to three games. But you should still tune in, just to see what kind of shenanigans Sarge and Muffin get into.