The Florida Marlins come to Philadelphia tonight for a three-game set. The Fish are 55-53, and in second place, 7 games behind the Phightin's. The Phils are 16 games over .500 and can pretty much nail things down this weekend if they can manage to take three from Florida.
Joe Blanton goes tonight. Blanton has been on a major hot streak, going 5-2 with a 2.33 ERA in his last twelve starts. Overall, he is 7-5, with an ERA of 4.04, which has been slowly but steadily dropping. In his last start, against San Francisco, he allowed 2 runs on 7 hits and struck out 5. He has not allowed more than 2 runs in an outing since June 30, when Atlanta got 3. He also leads the Phillies pitching staff in most innings pitched, a testament to his sturdiness. In addition, he leads the staff in strikeouts.
I don't think anyone expected Blanton to be a stopper when the Phils acquired him last summer, but he has certainly proved that he is capable of filling that role. After getting beyond the rocky start he had, he has been the Phillies' most effective and most reliable starter.
Florida has some interesting young players, but they clearly are not in the same category as the Phils, who have to be considered if not the best team in the National League, one of the two best teams in the Senior Circuit with the Dodgers.
If the Phils sweep Florida, they will be 19 games over .500 and have something close to a 10 game lead. Absent a complete collapse, which is very unlikely, they would have the National League East well in hand.