PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies manager Charlie Manuel remembers what right-hander Joe Blanton did in Game 4 of the 2008 World Series against the Rays -- he won.
This time, with the best-of-seven series possibly on the line, Manuel tabbed Blanton again for Game 4 of the current Fall Classic on Sunday night against the Yankees, hoping for a repeat performance.
Blanton will face Yanks left-hander CC Sabathia, the Game 1 loser, who will pitch on three days' rest at Citizens Bank Park. The Yanks hold a 2-1 lead after defeating the Phillies, 8-5, on Saturday night in a game that was delayed 80 minutes by rain. Again, the fall fortunes of his team rest squarely on Blanton's right shoulder.
"Not only did he pitch a good game in the World Series, he had a good postseason for us," said Manuel about Blanton, who was 2-1 with a 3.18 ERA last postseason. "Blanton definitely has been one of our most consistent pitchers this year."
Loves to face: Jayson Werth, 0-for-6. Hates to face: Ryan Howard, 3-for-7.
Loves to face: Robinson Cano, 1-for-9. Hates to face:
Alex Rodriguez, 4-for-7, 2 HR.
Why he'll win: Not facing Lee.
Why he'll win: Great in '08 WS.
Pitcher beware: Crushed in PHI in '08 NLDS.
Pitcher beware: Bad history vs. NYY.
Bottom line: Will the ace deliver?
Bottom line: Can he reward Manuel's trust?
Manuel chose Blanton over Game 1 victor Cliff Lee, opting not to use his ace on short rest.
This season, his first full one with the Phillies, Blanton was 12-8 with a 4.05 ERA in 31 starts, although he's 0-0 with a 4.66 ERA in three starts this postseason.
But the memory of Game 4 in 2008, coming at the Bank on Oct. 25, is still fresh.
It came seven months after Blanton started for the A's against the Red Sox to open the season in Japan. The A's traded Blanton to the Phillies on July 17, 2008, ushering in two Octobers of World Series play and at least one championship.
Asked on Saturday night before Game 3 whether he had sent A's general manager Billy Beane a fruit basket in thanks, Blanton chuckled.
"No, not yet," he said.
Blanton pitched six innings of two-run, four-hit ball to earn the win as the Phils beat the Rays, 10-2, in Game 4. They won only the second World Series in franchise history over the course of the next three days in a Game 5 that was suspended and delayed by rain.
Blanton, sitting at a table fielding questions from the media, looked poker-faced when asked if last year's World Series experience would help him in his quest to defeat the Yankees this year.
"I don't think it helps as far as preparing," Blanton said. "You just prepare like it's another game. It's a big game, but it's another game. The experience is what you draw from last year. Just the fact that you've been there before, you've been in that environment, you've been in that atmosphere, you've been in that big game situation, you can draw on that and keep your emotions in check."
Sure, but pitching in the World Series under that kind of pressure, isn't it fun?
"It's always fun to go out and pitch these games," he said. "Ultimately, that's why you play all year and get yourself ready -- to be able to perform in those situations. That's what makes pitching in a game like this fun."
In 2008, Blanton was the last of the front-line pitchers to leave Oakland, following Dan Haren to the D-backs and Rich Harden to the Cubs. Chad Gaudin, who was also dispatched to the Cubs in the Harden deal, is now in the postseason bullpen with the Yankees. The A's went with a kiddy corps rotation this past season and lost 87 games, finishing last in the American League West.
Blanton remains a constant in the reconstituted Phillies rotation that includes newcomers Lee and Pedro Martinez, plus Cole Hamels, the MVP of last year's National League Championship Series and World Series. Blanton is 18-8 since coming to Philadelphia, including last postseason's victories.
But he's 0-3 with an 8.18 ERA in four starts lifetime against the Yankees -- 20 earned runs, 22 hits and 12 walks in 22 innings -- which may explain why he said on Saturday night that he doesn't intend to view the video tapes of those games as part of his preparation.
And that was during his A's days against Yankees teams which were a lot weaker than this one. Mark Teixeira, a $180 million addition this year, is 9-for-27 with three homers and seven RBIs against Blanton.
"It's one of those things you could probably take a little bit from, but at the same time that was last year," Blanton said about his work against the Yankees. "Even if it was early this year, you may or may not be able to draw something from it. It's really about knowing the hitters. I go off feel, a lot. I have a lot of trust in my catcher, whoever that is. They're out there every day. They're out there studying the hitters."
Blanton virtually said the same thing about last October's World Series win -- that was last year, one might not be able to draw anything from it. As Sunday's Game 4 plays itself out, the baseball world will see what it shall see.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.