Blanton's struggles at forefront in loss to Twins

Blanton's struggles at forefront in loss to Twins

Blanton's struggles at forefront in loss to Twins

ANAHEIM -- A couple more inches, and Chris Iannetta probably wins the game with an eighth-inning three-run homer. One productive at-bat with runners in scoring position, and the Angels come back against lights-out closer Glen Perkins in the ninth. But that would've only masked one of the club's most-pressing, ongoing concerns with time running out and the season quickly slipping away: Joe Blanton.

On Monday night, against a Twins offense with the 11th-best OPS in the American League (.697), he recorded only 11 outs, gave up nine hits and suffered his 13th loss, setting the Angels up for a 4-3 defeat that dropped them five games below .500 and put them in a virtual tie for third place with the Mariners in the AL West.

Blanton has given up 18 runs in 18 1/3 innings of four July starts, ballooning his already-inflated ERA to 5.66. The Angels are slim on immediate options to replace him in the rotation, with Jason Vargas still a couple weeks away, Garrett Richards not stretched out and the farm system dry -- but manager Mike Scioscia was non-committal about whether Blanton would take his turn on Saturday.

"I think we're going to sit back and look at some things," Scioscia said, "but we don't have to make that decision now."

The Angels were without Josh Hamilton, who missed the game with a sore right ankle, but they had their chances.

Down two in the seventh, Hank Conger led off with a triple off the right-field wall, but was stranded at third after Erick Aybar and J.B. Shuck struck out and Mike Trout was retired on a grounder. In the ninth off Perkins, Shuck and Trout both hit one-out singles before Albert Pujols struck out looking and Howie Kendrick struck out swinging.

The real dagger, though, was delivered by Clete Thomas.

Perkins, an All-Star who carried a 1.72 ERA and 23 saves into the game, entered in the eighth for his first four-out save of the year and gave up a two-out, pinch-hit RBI single to Collin Cowgill to make it a one-run game. Iannetta, pinch-hitting for Conger because Perkins is left-handed, swung at the very next pitch and lofted one deep to left field, where Thomas went straight up and brought back a ball that would've cleared the fence by about half a foot.

"I knew I had a chance," said Thomas, who also homered, scored two runs and hit an RBI double, "I had it the whole way, so it was whether I'd have room or not. So it was just excitement. It saved the game at the moment."

It got to that point because five Angels relievers -- part of a bullpen that has posted a 3.29 ERA over the club's last 56 games -- held the Twins scoreless for 5 1/3 innings.

Blanton, charged with four runs in a 90-pitch, 3 2/3-inning outing, didn't help.

"I felt like I threw a lot of good balls tonight," Blanton said. "I made a couple mistakes that they hit and a lot of those borderline pitches tonight that weren't going my way, and that was the game."

Blanton remains in the rotation -- for now, at least -- simply because the Angels don't really have anywhere else to turn. He leads the Majors in opponent homers (24) and hits (157), ranks third-worst in ERA and sports the fifth-highest WHIP (1.59). After his shortest start since Sept. 28, 2011, he became the first Angel since 1996 (Jim Abbott) to go winless in his first 10 home starts of any season. He's allowed at least one homer in 10 straight games and at least two runs in all 20 starts -- both franchise-tying marks.

Worst of all, the Angels are four games into a stretch of 20 games in 20 days and Tommy Hanson, fresh off missing nearly five weeks with a right forearm strain, will be limited to only 80 pitches on Tuesday.

"He's out there trying," Scioscia said. "There's nobody out there trying harder than Joe. It just didn't come together tonight."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.