Phillies shut out Braves behind Joe Blanton's pristine day
ATLANTA — 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. Carlos Ruiz stretched out on one. Cliff Lee played some country music. Jonathan Papelbon countered with classic rock. It did little to stir the masses.
Both the Phillies and Braves played like they had a flight to catch, and that was because they did. Joe Blanton didn't mind.
The Phillies' fifth starter threw his first shutout in 1,797 days in a 4-0 victory over Atlanta. The game was completed in 2 hours and 2 minutes. Blanton required just 88 pitches and 67 of them were for strikes in the three-hitter. It was the fewest pitches for a Phillies pitcher to toss a shutout since Mike Grace's 84 on Sept. 2, 1997.
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. Laynce 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.
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 Charlie Manuel's batting order. He started Thursday for the seventh straight game. In those starts, he is hitting 9 for 20 (.450) with five extra-base hits.
Until his 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.
Contact Matt Gelb at email@example.com or follow on Twitter @magelb.