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Blanton's 'real good job' goes for naught

Blanton's 'real good job' goes for naught

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PHILADELPHIA -- Charlie Manuel is sick of talking about his decision not to bring back Cliff Lee on short rest.

"I've answered that about 10 times in the last two days," the Phillies manager said. "Maybe 25."

But the man he tabbed for Game 4 instead, Joe Blanton, did an admirable job. Blanton -- who had not pitched in nearly two weeks and had logged just one start in the past month -- kept the Phillies close in what became a 7-4 loss to the Yankees.

Perhaps that should not be surprising; for much of 2009, Blanton was the Phillies' most consistent pitcher in a rotation that was constantly changing, going 7-3 with a 2.59 ERA from late May through early September.

The 28-year-old right-hander, a staple of so many Game 4 starts for the Phillies over the past two years, struck out seven Sunday. His fastball, though rarely touching 90 mph, was darting down in the zone, and he became locked in, retiring 11 straight over the first through fourth innings.

That stretch was sandwiched by two rough patches, but even there, he avoided the big hit that could have ended his night early.

"I thought he did a real good job," Manuel said. "Actually, I think he pitched real good."

Blanton said he felt sharp from the start. But Derek Jeter began the game with a leadoff single, after which Johnny Damon laced a 2-0 fastball for a double to right.

"Second and third facing the middle of their lineup," said Blanton, who seemed relatively content escaping the jam only trailing by two. "There's not a whole lot you can do right there."

He cruised through the next three innings, needing 33 pitches and working with characteristic briskness.

SURE THING NO MORE
For the first time in Joe Blanton's five playoff starts, the Phillies did not come up with a win.
Date Opp. IP ER H BB K Dec.*
11/01/09 NYY 6 4 5 2 7 ND
10/19/09 LAD 6 3 6 2 2 ND
10/26/08 TB 6 2 4 2 7 W
10/13/08 LAD 5 3 7 4 4 ND
10/05/08 MIL 6 1 5 0 7 W
*Blanton's decision -- Phillies are now 4-1 when Blanton starts in the playoffs.

Then in the fifth, he issued a four-pitch leadoff walk to Nick Swisher. An infield single and two bloop hits later, Blanton had another two runs charged to his name.

"Three bleeders, there's not a lot you can do," Blanton said of that fifth inning. "You make good pitches, and sometimes the bounces go your way and sometimes they don't. I just happened to be on the bad side of the breaks today."

When he left after six innings -- allowing those four runs on five hits and two walks -- the Yankees led by two, but Philadelphia would tie it in the eighth before suffering a crushing loss in the ninth.

But Blanton, as always, was not overly devastated -- or verbose -- during his postgame reflections. He may be the best illustration of the Phillies' cliched-but-true take-it-as-it-comes attitude. All year long, whether throughout his outstanding midseason stretch or after a rare tough loss, his explanation has been simple: Get the ball, throw the ball, try to make pitches.

He may not have looked like Cliff Lee did in Game 1, but Sunday, Blanton made more than enough quality pitches to set up Pedro Feliz's game-tying homer in the eighth.

"Joe did a great job today," Jimmy Rollins said, "and we just didn't close it out at the end."

David Gurian-Peck is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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