Sunday, October 26, 2008

Blanton Shows Poise and Power; Phils Up 3-1

Remember when the Phillies acquired Joe Blanton? The news wasn't exactly met with excitement and glee. The general consensus was that Blanton would be an upgrade over Adam Eaton (which isn't saying much), but it would not push the Phillies over the top.

Well Blanton aimed to prove otherwise last night and, well, I'm sold. Blanton stifled the Rays offense, allowing two runs over six innings and striking out seven. And as if that wasn't enough, he did some damage with the bat as well.

By the bottom of the fifth, Blanton had given up a pair of solo home runs, including a pinch hit homer to Eric Hinske in the top of the fifth. When Blanton stepped to the plate, there were two outs and the Phillies were just thinking about turning the batting order over for the sixth inning.

Blanton thought otherwise, crushing a fastball over the left field wall and in the process giving Rays' pitcher Edwin Jackson the most embarassing moment of his young career. It's not a stretch to say this was the biggest hit of Blanton's life, considering he hadn't hit a home run since high school.

Of course, Blanton wasn't the only one to deliver for the Phillies. Ryan Howard emerged onto the scene in a big way, blasting two home runs for 5 RBI. His first home run, a three-run shot in the fourth inning, gave the Phillies a commanding 5-1 lead. His second, a two-run bomb in the eighth, well, that was just for fun.

After struggling to capitalize with runners in scoring position, the Phillies finally put questions about their offense to rest, racking up 10 runs on four home runs. Meanwhile, the highly-touted Rays defense began to show cracks, as Akinori Iwanura committed two costly errors.

By winning the first two home games of the series, the Phillies have put themselves in great position to win the franchise's second title and the city's first since 1983. Cole Hamels takes the hill tomorrow against Scott Kazmir in a Game 1 rematch. That game went in the Phillies' favor and with the offense finally clicking, no one would be surprised to see Philadelphia close out the series in five games.

It should just be a matter of the Phillies keeping their composure, and no one has looked more composed this October than Cole Hamels.

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