Blanton Returns, Opens Series vs. Cardinals

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St. Louis Cardinals (17-8) play at Philadelphia Phillies (14-10). Jaime Garcia (2-1, 1.04 ERA) starts vs. Joe Blanton (Career: 63-54, 4.21 ERA).

The Phillies desperately needed Sunday night's win against the Mets, especially after hitting a speed bump. The Phillies are off to a 2-0 start this May, and now welcome the team with the best record in the National League.

Joe Blanton, who missed the whole month of April due to an oblique strain, will make his season debut. Blanton struggled in a few rehab starts, but did not feel any pain. Blanton's first career stint on the disabled list might put him under 213 innings this year, his career average. The Phillies are hoping to get several innings out of him to avoid a struggling bullpen, but the Phillies will be watching his pitch count.

Throughout his career, Blanton has had success against the Cardinals. He is 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA against the Red Birds. He has even limited Albert Pujols to a .125 average in eight at-bats. The Phillies are happy to have Blanton back into the starting rotation, which has been iffy with the exception of Roy Halladay.

The Phillies' offense went cold towards the end of April, but have heated up with the weather. They pounded out double digits in the last two games, and would like to continue the trend against Jaime Garcia. The left-handed rookie has been the Cardinals' top pitching prospect, and has pitched well thus far. Garcia has kept base runners to a minimum, and has out-dueled the likes of Tim Lincecum and Johan Santana. However, the 23-year old has yet to face a lineup as potent as the Phillies -- and in a hitter's park in warm weather.

The Cardinals and the Phillies are two of the top contenders in the National League this year. It will be intersting to see how these two teams match up in this four game series.


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