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World Series Tampa Bay Rays: Phils' Blanton finds niche

Joe Blanton pitches against the Dodgers during Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, when the Phillies started him instead of sending Cole Hamels out on short rest.

Associated Press

Joe Blanton pitches against the Dodgers during Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, when the Phillies started him instead of sending Cole Hamels out on short rest.

PHILADELPHIA — Joe Blanton wasn't who the Phillies were looking for when they sought a pitcher to bolster their starting rotation before the trade deadline. CC Sabathia ended up with the Brewers. But the Phillies were what Blanton was looking for.

Blanton and the Phillies are still playing, and they took out Sabathia and the Brewers in the process.

Blanton, 27, was 5-12 with a 4.96 ERA in 20 starts with Oakland before the trade, and though he was inconsistent in his regular season tenure in Philadelphia (4-0, 4.20 in 13 starts) he allowed just one run on five hits and struck out seven in six innings to clinch the NLDS over the Brewers and earned enough confidence from manager Charlie Manuel to start Game 4 of the NLCS against the Dodgers with Philadelphia seeking a 3-1 series lead. Manuel could have used ace Cole Hamels on short rest. Philadelphia won though Blanton left trailing, 3-2.

His postseason performance has been heartening, Blanton said, after a season in which he felt he got in a "rut" at Oakland.

"The trade happens, it almost is like a new breath, because I was going to a new league, new team," said Blanton, scheduled to start Game 4 for the Phillies tonight at Citizens Bank Park. "It was almost like getting to start over."

WHAT?: Manuel joked on Friday that his team probably had more meetings than any in baseball, but apparently in none of them did it come up that Rays SP Matt Garza is right-handed. Manuel was asked Saturday if he considered tweaking his lineup after it produced one hit in its first 28 at-bats with runners in scoring position.

"I thought about maybe switching (No. 4 hitter Ryan) Howard and (No. 3 hitter Chase) Utley, but when I go back to it, if you go look at their production against left-handed pitchers, they're as high as anyone on our team," he said. "Jayson Werth has 16 homers, he's got good numbers against lefties. But Utley and Howard, they've got numbers that go against lefties, and I didn't see any reason why to bust them up."

World Series Tampa Bay Rays: Phils' Blanton finds niche 10/25/08 [Last modified: Saturday, October 25, 2008 11:11pm]
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