Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 5/15/12

No one was sure what to expect of Joe Blanton when he arrived at spring training three months ago. He was limited to eight starts in 2011 due to an elbow injury. The Philadelphia Phillies, the doctors and Blanton felt the best remedy was rest, not surgery.

The uncertainty prevailed throughout the beginning of the spring, but Blanton has proved all doubters wrong in the time since.

The 31-year-old veteran took a shutout into the eighth inning Monday and settled for his fourth win in seven starts this season as the Phillies beat the Astros 5-1. Blanton had held Houston to four hits in seven shutout innings before allowing a home run to pinch hitter Marwin Gonzalez to begin the eighth.

Blanton, who was tagged with a loss in his first game this season, which came in relief, is 4-2 with a 2.81 ERA in seven starts. The fifth starter of the Philadelphia rotation, Blanton has gone at least seven innings in five of his seven starts.

Phillies starting pitchers lead off of baseball with 238 2/3 innings this season. With a bullpen that sports the worst ERA in baseball (5.23), the starters' ability to average 6 2/3 innings per start has been a boost.

"I always want to go deep in the games," Blanton said. "You'll give up runs, but you can somewhat control going deep into the game and take some pressure off the bullpen. ... I feel like over the long haul, it's good for the bullpen, especially when you start getting past August. They're a little bit fresher because the starters have gone deeper in games. It's a big difference over the course of 162 games."

With Monday's victory, Blanton extended his personal winning streak to three games. Since his last loss, on April 22 in San Diego, Blanton is 3-0 with a 2.10 ERA. He has struck out 28 and walked four in 30 innings during that span.

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