Mets-Phillies Preview


Off to arguably the best start of his career, the Philadelphia Phillies' Joe Blanton says he hasn't felt this good in five years.

His recent efforts are certainly indicative of that.

Coming off a gem of a performance, Blanton takes the hill Tuesday night in the second of three against the visiting New York Mets.

Blanton (3-3, 2.83 ERA) has compiled a 2.62 ERA through his first five turns in the rotation - his lowest career mark to open a season. Five days after allowing two runs in 7 1-3 innings of a 5-2 win over the Chicago Cubs, Blanton was even better during Thursday's 4-0 victory at Atlanta.

The right-hander struck out six in a three-hitter - his first shutout since June 2, 2007, while with Oakland.

"This is the best I've felt mechanically and physically since 2007," Blanton told the Phillies' official website. " ... I feel like I'm letting the ball go farther up front. That's making later life. Whether the velocity is up or the same, the late life is the key. Hitters tell you that too. They say they have trouble with late life."

Blanton hasn't won three consecutive starts since Sept. 16-27, 2009. He had gone 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA over three home starts in this series before getting tagged for seven runs and 10 hits over 4 1-3 innings of a 10-7 win April 6, 2011.

Blanton will look to slow down a Mets team coming off its third straight win, 5-2 on Monday. Pinch-hitter Jordany Valdespin, called up to replace injured shortstop Ruben Tejada (strained right quad), belted a tie-breaking three-run homer off Jonathan Papelbon with two outs in the ninth inning.

"It was a great moment for me," said the 24-year-old rookie, was 0 for 6 before recording his first career hit. "He's one of the best closers in the big leagues. They called me (Sunday) night and told me to be ready."

With Mike Pelfrey out for the season following Tommy John surgery, New York (16-13) turns to Miguel Batista (0-1, 6.92), who is likely to remain in the rotation until at least the end of the month.

"One of the things that we brought Miguel Batista in for was not just to be a bullpen guy, but if we needed a spot starter at any time, he was the guy to do it," manager Terry Collins told the team's official website. "We saw last year how effective he can be in that role."

The veteran right-hander was roughed up in his only other start this season, giving up six runs and eight hits over 3 2-3 innings of a 6-1 loss to San Francisco on April 23.

Batista is 3-2 with a 3.86 ERA in eight career starts against the Phillies (14-16), the most recent of which came July 25, 2006.

Jimmy Rollins is 11 for 20 with a homer against Batista while Placido Polanco is 11 for 33. Juan Pierre has, in contrast, had a hard time figuring out the righty, going 5 for 22.

The Mets lost catcher Josh Thole after he was elbowed in the head during a home plate collision in the eighth inning Monday. His status is unknown.