As the winds whipped through Citizens Bank Park, Joe Blanton whipped on the Braves early. For the first five frames, Big Joe allowed just one hit and brushed off some bad luck in the first inning, when two errors and plunked batter loaded the bases. Blanton escaped that jam, settled in, and rode easy until the 6th inning when the Braves struck for three runs on four hits to jump ahead. It was all Atlanta would need as they took Game 2 of the series, 4-1.
The stiff breeze out to right field swayed the flagpoles along Ashburn Alley, but also seemed to give Eric Hinske’s double in the sixth an extra kick in the rear, as it one-hopped the fence over Jayson Werth’s head. In any case – weather not withstanding – Blanton was his usual self going six innings with three earned, mixing in two walks and three strikeouts. It’s exactly what you expect from Heavy B, although it’s not quite on par with what the rest of the rotation has accomplished this past week. Still, it was plenty to keep the Phils in the game.
Pitching is great and everything but the offense has to show up, which it did not this afternoon. Phillies hitters stranded nine runners, making the box score look rather absurd. Seven different Phils registered a hit, including three from today’s second baseman Placido Polanco, yet all they could show for it was a measly run and three double-plays. They managed 13 total baserunners on the day, but again struggled with RISP, going 1-for-8. For Polly, it was his 12th multi-hit performance in the first month of the season.
It’s a tough thing to watch when such a talented offense wastes precious opportunities with guys on second and third. Normally, when the wind blows out to right field with such force, it’s a boon for the Phils – but not today. The Phillies couldn’t muster an extra-base hit off the likes of Medlen, O’Flaherty, and Kimbrel, among others.
On the injury front, backup catcher Brian Schneider left the game with a left Achillies tendon strain. The results of his MRI are not yet known. Carlos Ruiz came in to catch on a scheduled off day and went 1-for-2 with a single and a walk. With an already-thin bench, the loss of Schneider would be somewhat devastating.
Back to Blanton, who recorded a quality start. Big Joe said after the game he’s right where he should be at this time of the year. It wasn’t quite as dominating as Jamie Moyer’s last start, however, it was plenty to keep the Phils within striking distance. They just couldn’t find the sticks.
Tomorrow, Cole Hamels will go up against Kenshin Kawakami in the rubber match at 1:35.
UPDATE: It’s been brought to my attention that Blanton’s first start was not a “quality start” (6 inn, 3ER). That’s correct, however, it’s still a quality outing for someone just coming off the disabled list. I stick by that.
Video Report coming soon…