Three Down, One To Go; Blanton, Howard Shine

(Photo: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

The Phillies have moved to the brink of giving Philadelphia their first professional championship in 25 years. A 10-2 pounding of the Rays in Game 4 means the Phillies can end the World Series Monday night at Citizens Bank Park.

"I always say that a home run, it's nothing more than a well-hit fly ball that comes down behind the fence," said Charlie Manuel after Sunday night's 10-2 win over Tampa Bay. For Ryan Howard, there were two really well hit fly balls that got the World Series monkey off of his back and gave him a 2-for-4 night with 5 RBI.

"I look at Ryan Howard, he's a carrier. And a carrier is somebody that can take your team and get the big hits and knock in runs, and he can put you on your back and he can carry you," said Manuel in answering the criticism that Howard has faced throughout the postseason. "You can say anything you want to, but his numbers sit there for you to look at. He's a guy that might strikeout four times in a row, but he's always dangerous. And it might be that one pitch that he follows good, and he gets a good pass at it, and when it gets up in the air it comes down behind the fence."

The Phillies used four home runs to score eight of their runs Sunday night. Jayson Werth also deflected some of the criticism that he's faced during the postseason with a two-run shot and even pitcher Joe Blanton chipped in with a solo home run, the first of his career.

"As far as the batting goes, I just close my eyes and swing hard in case I make contact, that's really the only thing I can say," said Blanton after the game. Actually replays showed that he wasn't joking; closing his eyes and swinging hard is exactly what he did. When he was asked about actually closing his eyes, Blanton said it took him a while to open them. "I think when I went out and had to throw the next warm-up pitch in the next inning," joked Blanton.

On the mound, Joe Blanton was simply nasty. He threw six innings, allowing two solo home runs and striking out seven. Other than that, he just rode the Phillies offense. "Seems like every time I go out and pitch, they're giving me a run early. And when you get hitting like that and knowing they're going to produce, it makes you a little more comfortable."

A close-up of Joe Blanton's hat shows part of the stain that had Rays manager Joe Maddon concerned. Blanton explained that it's the same hat he's worn since coming to the Phillies and the stain in simply a dirt stain.
(Photo: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
The Rays thought Blanton was pitching too well and after the second inning, manager Joe Maddon brought a dark spot on Blanton's hat to the attention of home plate umpire Tom Hallion. Maddon was concerned that the spot was from pine tar that Blanton was using to rub on the ball, but the umpires watched him throughout the game and didn't notice anything in his behavior, or on the balls that would indicate an issue. "It was just a request on the part of Maddon to keep an eye on the situation. And Tom [home plate umpire Tom Hallion] said he would. He scrutinized the baseballs. But never had any cause to take it beyond that," explained Mike Port, MLB's vice president of umpiring after the game.

"They rub the balls up with whatever they rub them up with, and you rub it up and get it on your hand and I'm constantly trying to get moisture, and just touch my hat. It's nothing sticky," said Blanton in explaining the stain. "Anybody can go touch it. It's just basically just dirt from the ball that gets - over time, over so many starts, I don't change my hat, it just gets rubbed on the hat."

Manuel said he wasn't even initially aware of what Maddon was talking to the umpire about and thought it wasn't an issue. "If you look at my hat, see right there, it's got the same kind of stuff he's talking about. That right there is the fact that I haven't changed hats all year," said Manuel.

Cole Hamels, who is 4-0 in the postseason, including a win over the Rays in Game 1, gets the start Monday night and will be opposed by Scott Kazmir. The two matched up in Game 1 at Trop Field, with the Phillies coming out on top.


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