LOS ANGELES -- Having tried to work on mechanical adjustments as much as possible between games, winemaker Joe Blanton joked that he might try looking for the answer to his sudden slump at the bottom of a glass.
"Everybody has times when you get into one of these spells," Blanton said after he gave up his second tiebreaking homer of the National League Championship Series on Thursday night, and the Cubs went on to beat the Dodgers, 8-4, to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
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"This one just came at a really, really, really bad time."
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Addison Russell slugged an 0-1 hanging slider in the sixth inning of a 1-1 tie that was left pretty much where Blanton threw the 0-2 hanging slider that pinch-hitter Miguel Montero crushed for a grand slam to win Game 1 in Chicago. Blanton is the first Dodgers reliever to be the losing pitcher in two games of the same postseason series since Tom Niedenfuer in the 1985 NLCS against Jack Clark, Ozzie Smith and the Cardinals.
"That's been my best pitch for probably a year and a half or so, and to hang it twice, both ahead in the count, and get beat on it twice. … Sometimes you get lucky when you hang it, and sometimes you don't," Blanton said of the slider. "The goal is not to hang it, especially in those counts, and that's what I'm doing right now."
Blanton said the slider hasn't been sharp since the end of the regular season, but it's tricky trying to work through mechanical adjustments before a game that you might need to pitch in.
"It could be a bunch of things," said Blanton, who went 7-2 with a 2.48 ERA during an 80-inning season as a reliable setup man for closer Kenley Jansen. "It could mean you're rushing through your delivery and your arm's dragging through. The end result is your hand is around the ball and you're not on top of it. That's what's happening right now. It could be a body issue. It could be an arm issue, as far as being in the wrong position when you start to throw it. We've been working on trying to correct it."
Manager Dave Roberts insists the 35-year-old Blanton, who has pitched in seven of 10 postseason games, isn't fatigued.
"I think that Joe feels good, because after that [home run], he still makes pitches," Roberts said. "I think if you look back, he made a couple mistakes in the series and we paid for it. But as far as fatigue, I think Joe feels great, feels strong, and he'll be the first to tell you that he needs to execute a pitch. So when you look at Game 6, Game 7, I'm not going to shy away from going to Joe."
Blanton said he has Friday's travel day, and perhaps a quick mound session before the team flight, to find that slider, because he's not about to abandon it.
"Not really, because it's been there for six months," he said. "That's too long to just abort on a pitch that's been there for you, probably been your best pitch all year. I'm just trying to execute, and I'm not being consistent. I'll throw a great one, throw a bad one, throw one way off, and then I'll throw a great one. It's all over the place."