After taking the first two games of their series with the Chicago Cubs—including Saturday’s 3-2 win—the Dodgers will send their newest acquisition–31-year old Joe Blanton–to the mound Sunday afternoon, hoping he can do for them what he did when he was dealt from Oakland to Philadelphia: Help turn them into winners.
Because when Joe Blanton gets traded, his new team ends up with a World Championship, then makes the playoffs every season after that.
Actually, it’s only happened once, when the Philadelphia Phillies acquired the right hander from the Oakland Athletics, and went on to defeat Tampa Bay in the 2008 World Series. Philadelphia went 9-4 in Blanton’s thirteen starts. The Phils then made the playoffs in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
“Hopefully history will repeat itself for me,” said Blanton, who went undefeated (4-0) for the Phillies in 2008 after the trade.
“He’s the type of guy who keeps you in games and gives you a chance to win,” says manager Don Mattingly. “He going to be very important to us down the stretch.”
The thought originally was that the Dodgers would wait until Monday or Tuesday to schedule his first start. But Mattingly realized that Blanton would be going nine or ten days between starts if he was held back. So, Chris Capuano will be starting in his regular spot on Monday against Colorado, while Aaron Harang has been pushed back until Tuesday, meaning he’ll start with seven days rest. “We didn’t want (Joe) going too (long) without pitching,” Mattingly explained.
Rookie Stephen Fife was sent back to Triple A Albuquerque to make room for Blanton in the rotation and on the roster.
The native of Nashville, Tennessee is 8-9 with a 4.59 ERA. He’s definitely had stretches of trouble this season, allowing a league-leading 22 home runs so far, tying him with Atlanta Braves’ lefty Mike Minor. He says a flaw in his mechanics led to the ball staying up and over the plate too long, but he’s corrected it, giving up just four homers in five July starts after allowing 17 in May and June combined.
“I hit a …flaw that I couldn’t figure out,” Blanton said. “After missing a lot of time and not pitching a lot last year, I probably wasn’t as fresh as I usually was so it took me a little bit longer to fix it.
“My hands weren’t getting separated on time, and I was just rushing to the plate a little too quick. I feel like I’ve straightened it out, so hopefully I can keep it going.”
Blanton has superb control and does lead the league with just 1.2 walks per nine innings pitched. He’s also second in the N.L.with two complete games. He’ll keep the Dodgers in games virtually every time he starts, and he seems very happy to be in Los Angeles with a chance to go to the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season.
“I’m excited to be here,” he said in his first media session as a Dodger prior to Saturday night’s game. “I know it’s a great ballclub over here (with) a lot of good players, a lot of talent. It should be very exciting.
“This is a great place to pitch. In California you get that cool air at night, and the ball doesn’t seem to travel that well here. It’s a great defense playing behind me and I’m excited to get out there and play.”
He’s also excited about the possibility of pitching in his third World Series.
“It does,” he responded when asked if he thought the Dodgers were a championship team. “The bullpen looks like it comes together real nice. The offense mixes some speed and power–one through eight can really do some damage. That was one of the things we always had in (Philadelphia).
“They have a really good thing going here.”
The Dodgers are hoping Blanton can make it even better.
NOTES—Dodger lefthander Clayton Kershaw went seven innings against the Cubs Saturday night, allowing one earned run, three hits and striking out seven. Ronald Belisario and Kenley Jansen—who earned his 21 save—finished it up for Kershaw, now 9-6.
Kershaw said he’s pitching well despite his won-loss totals. “I can’t control my record,” he said. “I’m just going out there trying to give our team a chance to win.”
–Matt Kemp hit a two-run home run off Cubs starter and loser Chris Volstad (0-8). It came in the fourth inning, and was his sixteenth of the season and his fourth since coming back on July 13 from a 50-game stretch on the disabled list with separate hamstring problems. He’s hitting .336 with 13 RBI in the 20 games since he came off the DL.
–L.A. Is a half-game behind the first-place San Francisco Giants in the National League West.