Blanton would start in Game 163.

Joe Blanton will start for the Dodgers if they can force a game 163 on Thursday against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Manager Don Mattingly made the announcement prior to Tuesday’s game against the San Francisco Giants.

“If we get to that game, we’re going to be feeling really good,” Mattingly said. “Joe’s been throwing the ball good. Joe’s pitched in the World Series. We’re going to have the freshest arm.”

A lot would have to go right for that to happen — the Dodgers must beat the San Francisco Giants today and tomorrow, while the Cincinnati Reds must beat the St. Louis Cardinals tonight and tomorrow. If the Dodgers win that game, they will have to turn around and fly to Atlanta for the wild-card game, which factored into Mattingly’s decision not to pitch Josh Beckett on three days’ rest.

Blanton’s last two starts, wins against the Reds and Colorado Rockies, have been his best as a Dodger. He’s struck out 12 in 11 2/3 innings while allowing only one run — an 0.77 ERA. In his first eight starts since arriving in a trade with the Philadelphia Phillies, Blanton was 1-4 with a 6.07 earned-run average.

“Joe can throw the ball where he wants,” Mattingly said. “Everybody’s got places to go to get him out. We follow that. Joe’s been studying.”

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About J.P. Hoornstra

J.P. Hoornstra covers the Dodgers, Angels and Major League Baseball for the Orange County Register, Los Angeles Daily News, Long Beach Press-Telegram, Torrance Daily Breeze, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Pasadena Star-News, San Bernardino Sun, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Whittier Daily News and Redlands Daily Facts. Before taking the beat in 2012, J.P. covered the NHL for four years. UCLA gave him a degree once upon a time; when he graduated on schedule, he missed getting Arnold Schwarzenegger's autograph on his diploma by five months.