September 25 Philadelphia Inquirer:
Joe Blanton lives in relative obscurity because, well, he is not a member of the Big Three.
All of the attention is on the three Phillies aces, the pitchers who almost certainly hold the team’s destiny in a quest for a third consecutive National League pennant.
“Joe is the kind of guy, he doesn’t need a lot of attention,” manager Charlie Manuel said last week. “Really. That’s who he is.”
That’s what made the sixth inning of Friday’s 3-2 win over the New York Mets so awkward. Here was Blanton, lying on his stomach where the dirt and grass meet near first base. The sellout crowd at Citizens Bank Park stood, cheering and waving its white towels as a salute to the pitcher who has been almost forgotten during the Phillies‘ stunning run of success in the last month.
But do not forget this: If the Phillies are to win another World Series, Blanton will play a significant role. The Big Three – Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels – could start 17 of a potential 19 postseason games. The other two? Those are Blanton’s.
The postseason is all but assured now for the Phillies, who own the best record in baseball at 93-61. Their magic number is two, which means they can clinch a fourth straight NL East title Saturday with a victory over the Mets and an Atlanta Braves loss.
“We’re getting close,” Manuel said.
Their 11th straight win did not come without some tense moments in the ninth. With Mets runners on the corners, the Phillies thought they had the game won when Jesus Feliciano hit a comebacker to Brad Lidge. But umpires had granted a time-out before the pitch so the Mets could use a pinch-runner.
“I think that was terrible,” Manuel said.
“That’s a little ridiculous,” Lidge said.
Wasn’t it even stranger that the pinch-runner was coming with an 0-1 pitch?
“Whatever,” Manuel said.
Lidge recovered to strike out Feliciano and save Blanton’s performance. But the Mets were steaming afterward about a hard Chase Utley slide at second baseman Ruben Tejada in the fifth inning.
“We’re going to have to reevaluate the way we go into second base,” Mets third baseman David Wright told reporters after the game. Utley declined to comment.
PhillySportsCentral.com – Philadelphia sports news, rumors, blogs, & message board discussion forums