Joe Blanton finally put it together Monday night, throwing a six-inning start worthy of his moniker “innings eater.” Almost all the pitches were popping.
Blanton throws five pitches: Fastball, changeup, slider, sinker, curveball. Yesterday, like usual, he throws the fastball all over the plate, the changeup to offset, the slider outside and the sinker inside. The curveball is mixed in sparingly, usually as a throw-off pitch to select hitters.
Against the Cardinals, Blanton quickly established the fastball and sinker. The fastball was ranging in and out, while the sinker was used as a devilish counterpart. He mixed in the slider to offset the sinker, and most of his outs were recorded via swings on these breaking pitches on the inner and outer corners of the plate. While Blanton threw balls, he continued to pound the corners with the breaking pitches. He rarely aimed the fastball for the plate.
Interestingly, the only times he deliberately threw a fastball down the pipe were against Albert Pujols. This philosophy might be the best way to play the Cardinals: Attack Pujols (when men aren’t on) and dance the zone with the others (younger hitters who might go after breaking stuff off the plate).
I went back to Blanton’s five-run outing against Washington. He surrendered two home runs: The first was on a middle-of-the-plate slider after two fastballs. The second was a first-pitch fastball that Elijah Dukes cranked onto Ashburn Alley. For the most part, his slider wasn’t working well. He either missed completely or nailed the middle of the plate. Interestingly, his changeup was working, but he practically abandoned it altogether after it caused a line drive hit by Sharoin Martis. (That’s when the wheels started coming off.)
A pitcher like Blanton has to recognize that all five pitches won’t work on a given night. Against the Cardinals, Blanton was lucky to see his fastball and two breaking pitches doing nice work. Against Washington, the fastball and changeup were good, but he kept on the breaking pitches. Moreover, he foolishly threw a first-pitch fastball to a young power hitter.
But last night, Blanton had control of his outing. He recognized his early strengths, rolled with them, and pounded through with a strong statement game.