© 2008 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
10/26/08 3:47 AM ET
Blanton's journey brings him to Series
After starting year in Japan with A's, righty to start Game 4
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
PHILADELPHIA -- It's been seven months since Joe Blanton was the starting pitcher for the A's against the Red Sox to open the season in Japan. And from Tokyo Dome to Citizens Bank Park and Game 4 of the World Series on Sunday night, a journey of 10,000 miles began with a single pitch. "Opening Day in Japan with the A's, that's pretty big," Blanton said on Saturday night. "There were a lot of people, a lot of media, it being an overseas deal and just a different event rather than a regular-season game."
The A's then reopened their season again a week later. "[Japan] was a little bit earlier than everybody else, plus all the travel," Blanton said. "And it does make [the season] feel long. But the trade kind of makes it feel long and short in kind of a weird way, because when you're traded, it almost makes everything move quickly and you're trying to learn a new city, new players and everything." Blanton was the last of the front-line pitchers to leave Oakland this year, following Dan Haren and Rich Harden. The Cubs got Harden to offset the division-rival Brewers obtaining CC Sabathia. And then the Phillies picked up Blanton to bolster their staff. He was 5-12 with a 4.96 ERA when Billy Beane, Oakland's general manager, dispatched him to the Phillies. In retrospect, Manuel thinks Blanton might have been nursing an injury after the deal. "I think he did have some tendinitis or something, and about the last two or three games he's pitched his stuff has been better," said Manuel about a pitcher who was 4-0 with a 4.20 ERA in his 13 starts for the Phillies. Make that 5-0 in 15 starts, including the playoffs. His start at Milwaukee in the NLDS clincher was masterful. Blanton struck out seven, walked none and kept the Brewers off balance for the better part of the first six innings as he retired 18 of the first 21 batters. In the bottom of the seventh, Prince Fielder opened with a full-count homer and J.J. Hardy followed with another single. And that was that. With the Red Sox eliminated by the Rays in a tough seven-game American League Championship Series, Blanton is the only player left standing from the March 25-26 Japan trip. It's been a long road from cherry blossoms surrounding the Emperor's Palace in March to a ballpark just miles from Independence Hall in October. "It's been a rough year, personally, just the ups and downs, for whatever reason," Blanton said. "Over there [in Oakland], it was almost like I couldn't catch a break the first half of the year. And sometimes that's the way things go. I kind of let myself get in a rut, which was an experience I'll take, and hopefully I'll learn from and not let it happen again. "And then the trade happens, it almost is like a new breath, because I was going to a new league, new team. It was almost like getting to start over. So it almost made me think, 'All right, I can start over here. I'm on a team competing for the playoffs.'" And now, that team is competing for the second World Series title in the 126-season history of the franchise.
Game 4: TALE OF THE TAPE
|Overall||32 GS, 13-9, 4.38 ERA, 37 BB, 124 K||33 GS, 9-12, 4.69 ERA, 66 BB, 111 K|
|Key stat||3.35 K/BB (eighth in AL)||PHI 11-4 in his starts (incl. playoffs)|
|2008||2 GS, 2-0, 3.46||2 GS, 1-0, 3.27|
|Career||2 GS, 2-0, 3.46||3 G, 2 GS, 1-0, 2.77|
|2008||No record||7 GS, 2-0, 3.55|
|Career||No record||7 GS, 2-0, 3.55|
|2008||No record||1 GS, 0-0, 6.00|
|Career||No record||8 GS, 2-3, 6.05|
|Loves to face||N/A||Jason Bartlett, 2-for-14|
|Hates to face||Matt Stairs, 4-for-12||Carlos Pena, 4-for-7|
|Why he'll win||2.82 ERA last six starts (incl. playoffs)||Has not lost since July 9|
|Pitcher beware||12 HR last 63 1/3 IP on road (incl. playoffs)||4-10 vs. AL this year with OAK|
|Bottom line||Pounds zone||Just win, baby|
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.