Joe Blanton set to make final rehab appearance

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Sidelined since the end of spring training with an oblique injury, Joe Blanton is scheduled to make his third and final minor league rehab start Wednesday. Blanton threw just three innings in his previous outing, so he’ll need to increase his pitch count significantly in order to rejoin the Phillies’ rotation as planned next week.
Kyle Kendrick will almost surely be bumped from the rotation once Blanton is ready to return. He turned in another poor performance yesterday, giving him a 7.71 ERA and 9/9 K/BB ratio in 18.2 innings while allowing opponents to hit .316 with a .983 OPS against him. By comparison, for his career Alex Rodriguez has hit .305 with a .965 OPS, so Kendrick has basically turned every hitter he’s faced this season into a slightly better version of Rodriguez.
Current fourth starter Jamie Moyer also hasn’t been particularly effective, but has gone six innings in each of his three starts and sports a 5.00 ERA with an 11/4 K/BB ratio overall. Opponents have hit .257 with a .723 OPS versus Moyer, so the Phillies won’t have much of a decision to make when it comes to bumping a pitcher from the rotation to clear room for Blanton. Philadelphia sits atop the NL East at 11-7, 1.5 games ahead of Florida, New York, and Washington.

A.J. Hinch: “We’ll use every pitcher in Game 7 if we have to”

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It’s not entirely clear why the Astros threw Ken Giles into the ninth inning of Game 6 of the ALCS. With a six-run advantage and the bottom half of the Yankees’ lineup due up, pushing the series to its seven-game capacity looked like a sure bet. Giles may be one of Houston’s better bullpen arms, but he’s not their only option, and it would have made more sense to keep him fresh for a do-or-die Game 7 on Saturday night.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a sure bet when it comes to postseason baseball. That’s more or less what Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch had to say after the game, telling reporters that he had envisioned a quick three outs from his closer as they tried to pull back from the brink of elimination. “We didn’t have the luxury of limping into that inning,” Hinch said. “We’ve seen how these guys can explode in these innings.”

It’s not difficult to recall the Yankees’ explosive drive in the eighth inning of Game 4, when they exploited the holes in Houston’s ‘pen and evened the series with Gary Sanchez‘s go-ahead double off of Giles. Back home in Minute Maid Park, however, there was a slightly different feel to the eighth and ninth innings of Game 6. Jose Altuve led off the eighth with a solo home run, followed by Alex Bregman‘s two-run double and Evan Gattis‘ sac fly. In the ninth, Giles labored through a 23-pitch outing to lock down the win, handing out a base hit and a seven-pitch walk before eventually whiffing Chase Headley on three straight pitches for the last out.

So, while Hinch’s decision to lean on Giles in Game 6 may have felt wasteful, his concerns were not entirely unfounded. He’s prepared to roll with the same strategy during Saturday’s series finale, too, leaving nothing on the table as the Astros battle for their first World Series showdown since 2005. According to Dallas Keuchel, that means all hands on deck — except for Justin Verlander, whose four wins, 24 strikeouts and 1.46 postseason ERA have gotten the Astros as far as he could possibly be expected to take them. “No pitcher is going to be in the dugout,” said Keuchel. “They’re all going to be in the bullpen, myself included. Any way we can help out, we’re trying to get to the World Series, the same way the Yankees are, and that’s a nice feeling to have.”

Does that mean Giles will be available for a Game 7 appearance? Stranger things have happened. Joe Sheehan notes that the right-hander has pitched in back-to-back days 13 times this year, though he’s never thrown as many as 23 pitches on Day 1. Granted, he likely doesn’t have enough left in the tank for another 20+ pitch run on Saturday, but with the World Series on the line, any help he can offer will be invaluable.