These days you have to search for reasons to get excited about a Phillies game. Mike Fontenot's insertion back into the lineup? There's a confidence booster. Joe Blanton going head to head with Jeff Karstens? That'll put butts in the seats.
Well here are a couple of legitimate reasons to tune in this week. First, in the Pirates you can feed your appetite for a Philly-Pittsburgh rivalry for the next four days. Granted, there isn't the same bad blood or close to Flyers-Penguins, but the sun shines a little brighter when you still have something to hold over the western half.
More importantly, a series win obviously helps the Phils in the standings, particularly in the Wild Card, where the Pirates are currently tied with the Mets for one of the two spots. Every game matters regardless, but the opportunity to take down one of the front runners means double.
The Phillies are 5.5 back of the WC, which is still very much in it at this point, so don't downplay the significance here.
Unfortunately, they'll have to survive another Joe Blanton start first. Heavy B (6-6, 5.04) seemingly got back on track two starts ago, but reverted right back to run-surrendering form in his last outing. Home Run Blanton tossed three bombs, and allowed five runs total in seven innings of work against the Rockies -- though he settled down as the game went on, and kept the score knotted, which did give the Phils a chance to ultimately pick up the 7-6 win.
Blanton picked up a loss at Pitt on April 7, when he came out of the bullpen in the bottom of the tenth inning. Phillies-killer Rod Barajas belted a lead-off double, and pinch runner Michael McKerny would advance to third and eventually score on an infield single with two outs.
Jeff Karstens (0-1, 4.50), the Bucs' pitcher that night, hasn't seen much action since then. Two starts later, he landed on the DL with shoulder inflammation, and this is his first appearance since. Karstens held the Fightins to one run through six innings in a no decision. Charlie Manuel was still figuring out how to work with the pieces he had then, so the offense should be able to provide a bit more of a spark tonight. Here's the lineup, courtesy of the Inq's Matt Gelb:
1. Jimmy Rollins 6
2. Juan Pierre 7
3. Hunter Pence 9
4. Carlos Ruiz 2
5. Shane Victorino 8
6. Placido Polanco 5
7. Ty Wigginton 3
8. Mike Fontenot 4
9. Joe Blanton 1