When I look back at the Phillies’ 2008 postseason run to the title, it seems like it was a very stressful time.
I remember long periods of nausea, panic, and sleeplessness, while at the same time experiencing giddiness, excitement and euphoria.
Such is the nature of playoff baseball in October.
But the reality of the 2008 playoffs is that the Phils really had it pretty easy that year.
Not once did they face an elimination game, nor did they even trail in any series that season.
They beat the Brewers in four pretty easy games, took care of the Dodgers in five, then wrapped things up against the Rays in five as well.
Yet the only game I can really remember feeling totally relaxed watching was Game 4 of the World Series, a.k.a., “The Joe Blanton Game.”
Game 4 is often the most pivotal game of any seven-game series. If a team is up two games to one, a win in Game 4 puts a stranglehold on the series. If the team down two games to one wins, they draw back even and give themselves a 50/50 shot at winning the series.
On this date four years ago, the Phils looked to Blanton, their midseason trade acquisition, to give them that stranglehold.
We were not foolish to have our doubts.
However, that night Blanton brought, as Fox broadcaster Joe Buck put it, “electric stuff” to the park.
Blanton has never been what one would call “electric.” Fat, maybe, but not “electric.”
Yet on that night, one presidential campaign ago, he was awesome.
I’m not even sure their minor league careers were worth a dang either.
In Game 4 of the 2008 World Series, Blanton threw six innings and gave up just two runs while striking out seven, and benefited from a huge night from Ryan Howard, who broke through with a two homer game in the Phils’ 10-2 rout of Tampa. The win left the Phils just one win away from a World Series title.
It was a good night.
But what made the game even more memorable, and miraculous, was the work Blanton did at the plate.
That bomb off then-Rays reliever Edwin Jackson put the Phillies up 6-2 in the fifth inning, and seemed to hammer the final nail in the coffin not only for Game 4, but for the entire series.
It was a moment where, perhaps for the first time that postseason, most Phils fans watching thought to themselves, “Hey, I think we’re actually going to win this thing!”
It was a moment where, frankly, everyone should have realized the playoffs are as much about solid hitting, pitching and defense as they are about the baseball angels deciding it’s your time.
Never before, or since, has Blanton pitched that well, and he did it in the biggest game of his career.
As maddening as he could be to watch, however, the trade that brought Joe to Philadelphia turned out great for the Phils. They gave up nothing for him and received parts of five years, and one completely awesome World Series game, from the rotund right-hander.
That’s a good trade, y’all.
And so today, we celebrate one of the biggest games in franchise history and the memory of a young Joe Blanton coming through in the biggest moment of his professional career.
I’m still not 100% sure it actually happened.