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Cardinals ruin Blanton's return as Phillies' weaknesses are again exposed


The Phillies started another series this week against a true contender The return of Joe Blanton Monday night is encouraging for an inconsistent Phillies rotation.that runs the risk of dethroning them as the class of the National League. And unfortunately on this night, the Phillies failed.

To be fair, they did knock out over twenty runs in two games against Mike Pelfrey and Johan Santana- the top two pitchers in the Mets rotation this past weekend.

As usual however, the bats seem to flame out against pitchers they aren't too familiar with. The newest case in this experiment was the Jaime Garcia  of the Cardinals. Garcia is now 3-1 with an ERA of 1.13 after limiting the Phils to just one run over six innings Monday.  The Phillies main problems were exposed again: keep the offense in check so the game is close, and get to their bullpen if the starters haven't already put the game out of reach.

As brutal as the Phillies starters have been (minus Roy Halladay,of course) the return of Joe Blanton  to the mound after suffering an oblique injury was a welcome sight. Blanton is not a number one, two, or even a number three starter. However, on a team like the Phillies, he can survive with a career ERA over 4 and still keep them in most games he pitches. He did this tonight until he ran out of gas in the seventh inning.

The fact of whether Blanton should have still been in the game was a debatle one, due to the recovery of his injury. And with the Phillies bullpen in total shambles, relying on Nelson Figueroa (who couldn't even make the Mets) to get just one out is evidently impossible, and shows just how horrific this bullpen has become. The Cards chased Nellie Figs for several more runs, and the Phillies lost 6-3. In a few weeks, I think it may be time to start comparing the 1989 Phillies bullpen (remember Jeff Parrett and Todd Frowirth?) to the nightmare which is currently unravelling. And oh yeah, Ryan Madson is now out indefinitely  with that toe injury.

But back to the game: the Phillies might have scored more runs if not for a horrendous interference call on Blanton that ended a Phillies rally, and led to a Charlie Manuel  ejection. Oh yeah, a fan was tasered during the game as well. Remember the days when fans would run around the field for about twenty minutes before getting pummeled by the security? Come to think of it, it was quite an eventful game, but for all the wrong reasons...........

All things considered, Blanton looked good. Hell, compared to every other starter but Halladay, he looks like Nolan Ryan! As previously mentioned, Blanton will keep the Phillies in games, which is not the case concerning three other starters in this rotation. The lone bright spot of the pen was Brad Lidge, who actually looked half-way decent Monday night. At this stage however, it's best to compare Lidge to a box of chocolates and leave it at that (I know you have all seen Forrest Gump).

Bottom line:

As long as they are members of the team, nobody will say it publicly, but one has to wonder right now how much resentment the Phillies players truly have for the trade of Cliff Lee. As more games pass, this move looks more and more like the horrible mistake people thought it was the day the trade was made. Ruben Amaro Jr. is no dummy, so it kind of makes you wonder if mitigating circumstances backed him into a corner, or if he was given some kind of ultimatum by Lee's agent, Darek Braunecker concerning Lee's eventual trade. Braunecker has already made waves in Seattle last week in regards to Lee's future (or lack thereof) with the Mariniers, which has led him to cover his tracks and perform damage control over the last few days. Either way, Lee is gone, the fans are still smarting over it, and the present starters are brutal. This is a problem that will probably not go away. It's easy to sit here and be an armchair GM, and there would be many logistics involved in what I'm about to mention (money, prospects, etc.): Would YOU consider reacquiring Lee for Cole Hamels?

As far as offense goes, the Phillies' bats can probably power them to 84-89 wins alone. However, no depth in the starting rotation combined with an unbelievably flammable bullpen can equate to a long summer. It's safe to say by now, everyone knows what the Phillies needs are. It just depends on if and when they will be addressed.

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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