Blanton, Phillies shut out the Braves

Posted: May 04, 2012

ATLANTA - The stationary bike beeped twice, and Joe Blanton stepped off after 15 minutes exactly. Around him, the rest of the Phillies reveled in a brisk getaway day 4-0 victory over the Braves. A team official worked feverishly to push up the team's charter flight to Washington. Brian Schneider iced his back with a wide smile. Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon lounged in a corner of the room and laughed.

"I was hoping for under two hours," Blanton said.

His first shutout in 1,797 days took 2 hours, 2 minutes to complete. The righthander celebrated by riding the bike while everyone else packed.

"Perfect timing," Schneider said.

Both the Phillies and Braves played like they had a flight to catch, and that was because they did. Blanton didn't mind; he needed just 88 pitches to record 27 outs. He allowed three hits, pounded the zone with 67 strikes and never permitted a Braves runner to reach second base. His 88 pitches were the fewest for a Phillie in a shutout since Mike Grace's 84 on Sept. 2, 1997.

"That kind of tells the story," manager Charlie Manuel said.

The mood was set long before the first pitch was thrown Thursday at 12:10 p.m. by Braves righthander Randall Delgado. Exactly 12 hours earlier, the Phillies' bus departed Turner Field and carried a downtrodden team that had suffered the craziest of losses to its hotel for a nap.

The players and coaches slowly filtered into the clubhouse Thursday. The three leather couches in the middle of the room were prime real estate.

"I think everyone was worn down from last night," Laynce Nix said.

All the support Blanton needed arrived in the first inning courtesy of two singles by Jimmy Rollins and Juan Pierre followed by a Hunter Pence sacrifice fly. Nix and Shane Victorino later homered to pad the advantage.

It marked Blanton's first complete game since July 3, 2007 and shutout since June 2, 2007. Both were while pitching for the Oakland A's. In five 2012 starts, Blanton has a 2.62 ERA with 21 strikeouts against three walks.

"This is the best I've felt mechanically and physically since 2007," he said. "Honestly."

He believes the elbow trouble that limited him to 41 1/3 innings in 2011 was a blessing. It forced him to reevaluate his mechanics, and he had plenty of downtime to watch video and ponder adjustments. That has resulted in better movement of his pitches.

He threw 21 first-pitch strikes to the 29 batters he faced.

"I never want to go on the DL in my career or miss any start," Blanton said. "When I did, I tried to take something out of it other than just sitting around trying to heal. I tried to turn a negative into a positive and make myself better."

A day after scoring 13 runs resulted in defeat, four were plenty with Blanton on the mound. Nix's solo blast in the seventh snapped a streak of 17 consecutive batters retired by Delgado. Quietly, Nix has carved a regular spot in Manuel's batting order. He started Thursday for the eighth time in the last nine games. In those starts, he is hitting 9 for 20 (.450) with five extra-base hits.

"It's kind of hard for me to take him out, isn't it?" Manuel said.

Until Nix's swat, about the only excitement was when Braves fan dashed onto the field before the top of the fifth inning only to be pummeled by two security guards. The announced crowd was 24,015 but home-plate Jim Joyce's emphatic strike calls were quite audible.

It was that kind of day, the perfect setting for the unassuming Blanton to deliver a series victory. He rode that stationary bike as he discussed his outing with reporters. As he finished the 15-minute exercise, he chuckled.

"I kind of got out of breath at about eight minutes," Blanton said. That counted as his lone disappointment on a fine Thursday.


Contact Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @magelb.

 

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|