10/27/08 4:33 AM ET
Blanton picks right time for first homer
Phillies starter becomes 13th pitcher to go deep in Series
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com
Maybe the Phillies' other starting pitchers should take note. Blanton, who has 34 at-bats in his big league career (including the postseason), 21 of which ended with a strikeout, picked a fine time to thrust himself into the offensive section of the Game 4 box score. With two outs in the fifth inning, Blanton launched a solo homer off Rays reliever Edwin Jackson, marking the first long ball of his professional career, at any level.
"High school, I guess," he said, asked when he hit his last home run. "I wasn't a home run hitter. But I had a few."
Blanton became the first pitcher to hit a home run in World Series play since Oakland's Ken Holtzman did so in the third inning of Game 4 of the 1974 World Series. He's the 13th pitcher to homer in the Fall Classic. In total, 15 homers have been hit by pitchers in World Series play. Bob Gibson and Dave McNally each hit two.
Blanton is the first Phillies pitcher to homer in the World Series, though Steve Carlton hit one in the 1978 National League Championship Series against the Dodgers.
Blanton's heroics earned him extra respect from his teammates but not without a little ribbing as well. Fellow starter Brett Myers, who spent ample time before the game going over the right-hander's game plan -- from a pitching standpoint -- had a few words to say about his teammate's third at-bat.
Hurl and Slug
|Joe Blanton of the Phillies hit the 15th homer by a pitcher in World Series history on Sunday night, the first since 1974. The list:|
|1967||Jose Santiago||Red Sox|
"I told him, 'Just stay short and sweet like you did in BP and try to hit the ball up the middle,'" Myers said. "I don't think that got through to him."
Asked if he was more satisfied with the crowd's reception after he hit the home run or after he exited the field after a stellar six-plus-inning outing, Blanton picked the latter.
"My job's not to go out and hit home runs or get hits. My job is to go out and throw the ball well and give our team a chance to win," he said. "And when you get the applause coming off the mound from pitching, you kind of get that sense of, I've done my job for the day and have given our team the chance to win."
Blanton did that more convincingly than even he could have imagined. He set the tone early, striking five of the first 12 batters he faced and yielding only two runs -- both solo homers -- through six-plus innings. Carl Crawford went deep off him with two outs in the fourth, and Eric Hinske did the same in the fifth.
"He did an awesome job tonight," Myers said. "That's exactly what we needed him to do, and he did it."
Blanton was a midseason acquisition, traded from the Athletics on July 17 for three players. The deal wasn't considered a blockbuster, but the 27-year-old right-hander needed very little time before he solidified himself in a rotation that welcomed his workhorse reputation.
Blanton fell 2 1/3 innings shy of recording his third career 200-inning season, but his durability played a big role in the Phillies' second-half success.
Zero to Hero
|The Phillies' Joe Blanton became the 13th pitcher to hit a home run in the World Series -- and only the third to make that homer his first Major League long ball. The others:|
|Mickey Lolich, Tigers (1968): Lolich not only hadn't hit a Major League homer but that wound up being the only one in his 16-year career.|
|Rosy Ryan, Giants (1924): Reliever Ryan had his first in the World Series -- joining Jack Bentley as the only teammate duo of pitchers to homer in the same Series. He had one more in his career, the next year while playing for the Braves.|
"What a great pickup for us to get Joe," Phillies closer Brad Lidge said. "He's really solidified where we've got him in the rotation and he's just done nothing but step up and pitch big games. It seems like every time it's an important game, he steps up and pitches better than the last time out."
Blanton viewed his contributions in simpler terms.
"I feel like when I go out and take the mound I try to give the team a chance to win," he said. "That's my whole goal. If we score six runs that day, I hope I give up five or less. If I give up five and we get a win, I'm happy with that day.
"Obviously, I want to improve and get better, but at the end of the day, if the team won when I pitched, you get that sense of you did your job that day. It may not have been the best you could have done, but it may have been good enough, and that's the fortunate thing about pitching for this team with the hitters we have. You always feel in the game."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.