Joe Blanton to Start Game 4 of NLCS Monday

Oct. 19, 2009

PHILADELPHIA -- Former Kentucky standout and Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Joe Blanton has been tabbed the starting pitcher for Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, set for 8:07 p.m. ET Monday night at Citizen Bank Park.

Blanton, a UK letterwinner from 2000-2002, will be making his first playoff start of the season Monday night, facing Dodgers lefty Randy Wolf. Blanton, a 6-foot-3, 256-pounder has been pitching exclusively out of the bullpen in the 2009 postseason, with the Phillies rotation consisting of Cole Hamels, Pedro Martinez and Cliff Lee. After the Phillies pounded Los Angeles 11-0 Sunday night behind Lee, Blanton was tabbed as the starting pitcher for Monday night.

A graduate of Franklin-Simpson High School in Franklin, Ky., Blanton will be making his first playoff start of the year after making three playoff starts for the Phillies during their World Series Championship season in 2008. Each of Blanton’s three previous playoff starts in 2008 came in a game four, with the Phillies taking a 3-1 series lead with wins in each of Blanton’s previous three playoff starts.

“I feel like in the postseason every game is big," Blanton said. “If it's 2-1, you can keep it from coming back even, or if you're down 1-2, it's a big game to keep them from making that big step. So either way, it's a really big game.”

In Blanton’s last playoff start, game four of the 2008 World Series, the right-hander pitched six innings of two-run ball, allowing just four hits and striking out seven. But it was Blanton’s heroics at the plate that made history last year, as he became the first pitcher to hit a homer in the World Series since 1974, belting a 2-1 offering from then-Rays right-hander Edwin Jackson over the left-field fence for his first professional homer. His homer was the first since his high school days in the Bluegrass.

“Hopefully we'll be able to have Joe The Lumber and Joe The Arm out there [Monday],” Phillies shortstop and former National League MVP Jimmy Rollins joked after Sunday’s win over the Dodgers in Game 3.

Last year in the playoffs, Blanton posted a 2-0 record and a 3.18 ERA in 17 innings, issuing 18 strikeouts. Blanton started 31 games in 2009 for the Phillies, totaling a 12-8 record and a 4.05 ERA, hurling 195.1 innings, striking out 163 and issuing only 59 walks. In his 166-game MLB career, Blanton has a 63-54 record and a 4.21 ERA, tossing 1026.2 innings. During a 2009 mid-season span (June 24-Sept. 5), he went 5-3 with a 2.52 ERA and limited opponents to a .243 batting average.

In four regular-season games against the Dodgers, Blanton has totaled a 1-0 record and a 2.88 ERA and owns a 2-for-11 mark against Dodgers five-hole hitter and centerfielder Matt Kemp.

“He's very durable," Manuel said of Blanton, who led the Phillies in innings this year. "He's aggressive and he likes to pitch. He's very gutty, and what really caught my mind last year was how he pitched [in last year's playoffs].”

Blanton pitched in 55 games during his UK career for long-time Kentucky head coach Keith Madison. During his junior season, Blanton totaled a 5-7 record and a 4.59 ERA in 14 starts, striking out 133 in 100 innings. After his 2002 season, Blanton was drafted in the first round of the MLB Draft by the Oakland Athletics, going 24th overall.