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Blanco making most of opportunity atop order

June 17, 2017

PHILADELPHIA -- Gregor Blanco cannot replace A.J. Pollock. But Blanco is doing more than just keeping the leadoff spot filled until he returns.Blanco crushed a game-tying, two-run homer Friday -- the biggest blow in a three-run seventh inning that propelled the D-backs to a 5-4 win over the Phillies. A

PHILADELPHIA -- Gregor Blanco cannot replace A.J. Pollock. But Blanco is doing more than just keeping the leadoff spot filled until he returns.
Blanco crushed a game-tying, two-run homer Friday -- the biggest blow in a three-run seventh inning that propelled the D-backs to a 5-4 win over the Phillies. A nine-year Major League veteran, Blanco entered the game with just 22 career homers in 2,599 at-bats. Naturally, he hit a 424-foot shot off Aaron Nola to help the D-backs win their fifth straight game, and eight in their last nine.
Blanco has often been penciled in the leadoff spot and manned center field for the D-backs in Pollock's absence, and he made the most of it Friday night.
"We miss A.J., I want to make sure that's a statement that is loud and clear," Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said. "But in the absence of A.J., we have somebody that has experience in a lot of different areas. He takes relaxed at-bats. He's a leader. He's somebody we've been relying on."
Pollock hit the disabled list on May 15 with a strained right groin. He's set to begin a rehab assignment Saturday at Triple-A Reno, but will be out at least another few games.
As Pollock recovers, Blanco is hitting .310 with a .444 on-base percentage in his last nine games and has hit safely in each of his last seven starts.

The 33-year-old led off the game with a single as part of a 2-for-5 night, but the big blow came six innings later. Facing Nola with a man on first, Blanco drove a hanging curveball into the right-field concourse at Citizens Bank Park.
"It was definitely not an easy at-bat," Blanco said. "He was doing a good job of mixing all his pitches, his sinker was working differently today. His curveball, I think that's his out pitch. And in that situation, I was just trying to put a good swing on the ball, and he just threw it up and I was able to hit it out of the ball park."
It was Blanco's second home run of the season in 32 appearances. Blanco, who signed a one-year deal with Arizona in the offseason, quickly picked up more playing time with Pollock's injury, but he would be happy with any opportunity.
"I'm just so glad the D-backs gave me the opportunity to be here and to show my teammates, the manager, the front office, the city and to my family, that I have more to contribute," he said.

Stephen Pianovich is a contributor to MLB.com based in Philadelphia and covered the D-backs on Friday.