He’s just a rookie, yet Joe Blanton is starting to show he can handle big games.
A day after climbing back with 1 1/2 games of the AL West lead, the Oakland Athletics will be counting on another clutch performance from their young right-hander when they continue their series with the Minnesota Twins.
Blanton is coming off back-to-back wins, including a sparkling outing in Thursday’s 5-2 win over Curt Schilling and the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Blanton wasn’t intimated by Boston’s big bats, allowing just two runs and six hits over 6 1-3 innings as he improved to 10-11 on the season.
“Of all the times I’ve been here,” Oakland third baseman Eric Chavez said, “this was the most impressed I’ve ever been with one of our pitchers.”
Blanton has allowed two runs or fewer in 10 of his last 11 starts.
“For a rookie to come into Fenway Park, against that lineup, and beat a guy like Curt Schilling, that’s pretty impressive,” A’s second baseman Mark Ellis said.
It appears Oakland’s only avenue into the playoffs will be winning the West. The A’s are now five games behind wild card-leading Cleveland with 12 to play.
The A’s continued to put the pressure on the first-place Los Angeles Angels in the division with Monday’s 7-6 win over the Twins.
Ellis tripled to lead off the first, then scored on Jason Kendall’s groundout. Ellis fell a double short of the cycle and is batting .473 (35-for-74) in 17 games as a leadoff hitter this year.
The Angels, who were idle on Monday, will open a three-game series against Texas on Tuesday.
Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer homered on Monday for Minnesota, which lost for the ninth time in 13 games and is all but out of playoff contention after winning the AL Central the previous three seasons.
The Twins struggled all night before coming up with five runs in the ninth.