Blanton a hard-luck loser as Angels held in check

Righty hurls eight strong innings, but Pujols' homer scores only run

Blanton a hard-luck loser as Angels held in check

ANAHEIM -- Joe Blanton turned in his best performance of the season, but the offense struggled as the Angels fell, 5-1, to the Orioles on Thursday at Angel Stadium.

"Joe pitched a strong ballgame, there's no doubt about it," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "On a normal night, if we're swinging the bats the way we can, we are going to win that game."

Blanton -- who entered Thursday's contest with a 2.10 WHIP and opponents hitting .380 against him -- held the Orioles to three runs, two earned, in eight innings, but despite the effort, he is still looking for his first win as a member of the Angels.

While playing catch throughout the week, Blanton said he felt better than earlier in the season, and prior to Thursday's start he made a slight mechanical adjustment. What followed was the right-hander's second consecutive quality start, which came on a night when the Angels' bullpen needed the rest.

"The little slight mechanical adjustment has made me hide the ball a little better and made the changeup a little better," Blanton said. "Hopefully I can keep it going and keep a good feeling going. I feel like, as the game went on, my feel got better and better."

While Blanton recorded his first 1-2-3 inning of the season and lowered his ERA more than a full run from 7.09 to 5.97, Orioles starter Chris Tillman threw eight shutout innings, allowed just three hits and retired 20 of the final 21 batters he faced.

"You could tell early on he had a crisp fastball," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "You give [catcher Matt Wieters] three pitches to work, it's pretty good."

Tillman was born in Anaheim and used to attend games at Angel Stadium when he was in high school, but had never pitched in the venue as a Major Leaguer. In front of several family members and friends, the 25-year-old right-hander turned in his longest outing since Sept. 28, 2012.

"It's special," Tillman said. "I think it's always fun to pitch in front of your family and friends, especially to pitch a good one like that. I was happy with it."

The Angels had a legitimate scoring chance in the first inning, but failed to pose another threat until Albert Pujols hit a solo home run -- the 480th of his career and his third in the past five games -- off Jim Johnson in the ninth.

With two outs in the bottom of the first, the Angels had Mike Trout on second base, Mark Trumbo on first and Josh Hamilton at the plate. Hamilton came through with a single to right field, but Nick Markakis fired a strike to home plate and Trout -- who did not see on-deck hitter Howie Kendrick telling him to slide -- was thrown out.

"It's going to take a good play to get him," Scioscia said. "I thought Markakis charged and made a terrific throw. It looked like Mike didn't get a good read on it as he was coming into the plate to try to hook slide and get around the tag.

"I don't know if he would have had a chance anyway if he had slid, but he might have been able to hook his leg in there. I think Mike just misread the throw -- where it was -- and didn't get down."

From there, the Angels' offense would go just 3-for-27.

"He has good stuff," Scioscia said of Tillman. "Obviously [he's] a young pitcher that is coming into his own and starting to understand his stuff, but he hit both sides of the plate today, threw some good breaking balls. He pitched a strong game."

Baltimore got on the board in the third inning when Blanton -- who had a streak of 33 straight innings of allowing a hit end in the fourth -- surrendered consecutive singles to Nolan Reimold, Nate McLouth and Manny Machado.

Markakis and Chris Davis would later add RBI doubles, and McLouth hit a two-run homer in the ninth.

William Boor is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.