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Blanton, 4 Homers Push Phillies Past Brewers to NLCS

       
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   Joe Blanton   Phillies   Pat Burrell

Shortstop Jimmy Rollins took matters right to Milwaukee’s Jeff Suppan launching a lead-off homer.  Leftfielder Pat Burrell and rightfielder Jayson Werth clubbed back-to-back homers accounting for 4 third inning Phillie runs with Burrell going yard for good measure in the eighth. Mid-season acquisition Joe Blanton tossed a six inning gem with reliever Ryan Madson and closer Brad Lidge nailed down a 6-2 win clinching the Phils’ spot in the NLCS against the Dodgers.

Burrell was unquestionably the offensive star of this show, going 3 for 4 with 2 homers and driving in 4 runs in a performance that recalled memories of the red-hot Burrell who sizzled through April and through most of May.  With 1st baseman Ryan Howard having gone 2 for 11 in the series while walking 5 times and striking out 5 times, and with 2nd baseman Chase Utley faring even worse at 2 for 15, Burrell was almost single-handedly THE run producer.   Against the Dodgers, the trio will have to come to life and the pitching will have to keep Manny Ramirez out of the offense.   Also advisable to hit plenty in Manny’s direction;  one could say that he’s been known to be defensively nonchalant.

MLB.com’s Ken Mandel recaps the game;

the Phillies’ dormant offense awoke with a clap, pounding playoff-tested Jeff Suppan and the Brewers, 6-2, in Game 4 of the National League Division Series…

Scoring all six runs via the long ball — the first ripple came on Jimmy Rollins’ second career postseason leadoff homer — the Phillies took control by the third, providing a nice cushion for Joe Blanton, who was making his first playoff start.

Pitching for the first time since Sept. 26, the right-hander dismantled the Brewers easily and efficiently. He retired 11 of the first 12 batters and didn’t allow a runner beyond first base until Prince Fielder erased his shutout with a leadoff homer in the seventh. He left after throwing 107 pitches.

The starting pitcher delivered a huge performance, the bats found their home run groove, and the Brewers and their fans were promptly taken out of the equation by the reigning NL MVP’s opening first swing.

AP National Writer Nancy Armour adds to the recap of the game for Yahoo sports;

The Brewers had their own offensive worries, though Blanton can take credit for most of those. The burly right-hander, acquired in July from Oakland, hadn’t pitched since Sept. 26 and was making only his second career postseason appearance. But he was in a groove from the minute he took the mound, thanks partly to Rollins’ leadoff homer.

“From the first batter, it really set the tone. It allowed me to get comfortable,” Blanton said.

After a first-inning single by [Ryan] Braun, Blanton retired his next 10 hitters, with only four balls leaving the infield. He finally wore out in the seventh, giving up a leadoff homer to Prince Fielder, who had been 0-for-12 in his first postseason. After J.J. Hardy followed with a single, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel replaced Blanton with Ryan Madson.

Hardy advanced to third on two groundouts, but Madson retired Jason Kendall on a popout to end the threat.

The Brewers added another run in the eighth on Braun’s two-out RBI single, and the Milwaukee fans—including the blue-collar truck driver in Miller ads who’s made it his mission to “take back the High Life”—stood and began clapping their Thunder Stix, sensing a change in momentum.

But Utley made a gorgeous, leaping catch of Fielder’s liner to second to end the inning.

For all of the scores, boxscores and recaps on Sunday’s games, click here.

The Phillies, who will now have 3 days of rest and will open the NLCS with the L.A. Dodgers on Thursday at Citizen’s Bank Park, seemingly have their starting rotation right where they want it.  Pitchers have not been announced yet, but I strongly suspect that a well-rested lefthander4 Cole Hamels will get the nod in the opener and Brett Myers will go in game 2.

The Phils and Dodgers have met 3 times in NLCS play with the Dodgers winning in 1977 and 1978 while the Phils turned the tables on the Dodgers and winning the 1983 NLCS.

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