Blanton races to win over Reds
Righty cruises through eight innings in series opener
OAKLAND -- Joe Blanton is like the Ricky Bobby of baseball.Just like the fictitious NASCAR driver in Will Ferrell's movie, Talladega Nights, he likes to go fast. The A's righty works quickly on the mound, and you can usually count on a game moving right along when he is on the hill, even when the offense is on the field for a good portion of the time scoring runs. This was the case at McAfee Coliseum on Monday night as Blanton mowed down the Reds and the offense supplied the pop in a 6-1 victory that took just two hours, 10 minutes. "It's not gonna happen every night," Blanton said. "But I like to work quick, it just makes everything better. "The quicker I can get the hitters, the better. It keeps the fielders on their toes, and it helps the offense." "It's great, we love it," A's second baseman Mark Ellis said. "He did a great job of throwing strikes. I love having a ground-ball pitcher; he works quick and throws a lot of strikes. He did a great job." "We like all of our pitchers to get outs in the first few pitches," A's manager Bob Geren said. "That's the right way to pitch." Blanton pitched eight strong innings, allowed only one earned run and struck out five as he picked up his third win in his last four decisions. He also saw his ERA drop from 3.62 to 3.43, improving to 7-4 on the season as he continues his recent run of quality starts. He is 10-4 in June with a 2.46 ERA in his career. "He did a great job moving inside and outside," Geren said. "He mixed it up perfectly." His outing probably couldn't have come at a better time for the A's as the staff had allowed 25 runs and the bullpen had been taxed the previous two games. "It was great to see, it was needed," Geren said. "He's pitched well for us all year, and anytime you get hit around for a few days, you want a guy to be able to come out and do that. We were right back to where we wanted to be with our pitching."
"The last couple games, the bullpen's been used a lot," Blanton said. "I tried to attack the zone a lot. My game is throwing a lot of strikes, and that naturally makes the game quicker."Blanton has gone 31 1/3 innings in his last four starts and has given up just five earned runs. He has walked just four batters and allowed only 19 baserunners over that stretch. The 26-year-old continues to be close to unbeatable when the offense gets him run support as he improved to 34-7 in 54 starts when the offense gets him more than one run. The A's opened up what was a tie game by scoring five times in the fifth inning, sending 10 men to the plate. "The guys were patient," Geren said. "They waited for their pitch. Most of the balls were up that they hit." To that point, the A's only run was unearned when Travis Buck scored on a first-inning error. Oakland loaded the bases, and with two outs, got a gift when shortstop Alex Gonzalez booted an Ellis grounder. They then started to figure out Reds starter Kyle Lohse, using four hits and three walks to knock him out of the game before the fifth ended. The big blast came when Ellis launched a three-run shot to left. Lohse had come close to limiting the damage when he got Nick Swisher on a groundout and Eric Chavez on a flyout. Those were productive outs, though, because Swisher's grounder scored Jason Kendall and Chavez's sac fly plated Buck. Jack Cust drew a walk to keep the inning alive before Ellis delivered the big blow. "That was huge," Blanton said. "It gives you some nice breathing room and you can go out and attack." "That was a big one," Geren said. "He's been taking some real good swings."
Matt Smith is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.