Blanton baffles Rangers to take series
Right-hander has 20th quality start in 32 outings this season
OAKLAND -- This season has been one with many small sub-seasons for A's starter Joe Blanton.
It is a season that has seen his success vary from month to month, and right now it's going well for the big righty.
His monthly earned run average has not been within a run of the previous month's at any point this year and that trend continues this month after having his ERA at 4.14 in August.
After seven very good innings on Saturday afternoon, his ERA in September is 2.86 after he allowed three runs in the Athletics' 7-3 win over the Texas Rangers.
"He had a great game," A's manager Bob Geren said. "He's aggressive and he really pounds the strike zone. You feel like every time he goes out on the mound, he's gonna win."
Blanton started the game by retiring the first seven Rangers he faced and he did not give up a hit until the fifth inning, sitting down 12 of the first 13 batters that stepped in against him.
"All of his pitches were working, it was a good combination," Geren said. "He had a great changeup and the location of his fastball and his curveball were good."
He gave up three straight singles to open the fifth, but a nifty double play started by the smooth fielding of Mark Ellis limited the damage to just a pair of runs.
Blanton bounced back from the rough inning with a perfect sixth, inducing three ground balls, all to shortstop Marco Scutaro. Blanton got eight outs from grounders and struck out six more.
"I kinda mixed in everything today," Blanton said. "My changeup was pretty good, my slider was pretty good to the righties they had in there. It was a little mix of everything. I didn't use just one pitch."
With the win, he is also 3-0 in the month and has won six of his last seven decisions. Blanton has now made 32 starts and has 20 quality starts. He has been a workhorse this season as he has thrown 219 1/3 innings, second in the Major Leagues to only C.C. Sabathia of Cleveland.
"It expresses the kind of pitcher I want to be," Blanton said. "When they give me the ball, I want them to know I'm gonna keep it close. I want to be the kind of guy that's gonna keep it close every start."
Before having a 4.14 in August, he had a 5.49 ERA in July which followed a terrific June, which saw the mark at 1.58. It was 4.87 in May and 3.55 in April.
"All my pitches have been pretty good," Blanton said about September. "I feel like I can throw any pitch in any count."
Dan Johnson had himself a day at the plate, blasting a pair of solo home runs and driving in four runs.
He hit home runs in the fourth and sixth innings and supplied a two-run single that opened up what was a close game.
"He seems more relaxed," Geren said. "He's going about his business and it looks like his confidence is up."
Johnson came into the game hitting just .205 in September.
"You feel better about yourself when you're getting hits," Johnson said. "I'm trying to get where I have the same approach with every at bat. I've got to get more consistent.
"It really has a lot to do with your approach. I'm trying to get everything right and see what's gonna happen."
His first homer made it 3-0, his second one made it 4-2 and then the single turned a 5-2 game into a 7-2 game.
The A's used three solo home runs to back Blanton as Nick Swisher hit a homer well over the wall in center field in the third inning. It was his third straight game with a homer.
Swisher's home run was his 22nd, placing him just one behind Jack Cust for the team lead. Cust had an RBI single in the first, giving him 77 on the year, just ahead of Swisher in that category as well, who has 73.
Matt Smith is an associate reporter at MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.