Blanton not fazed despite early struggles

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Joe Blanton is fine. The Angels are not.

In their first game home after a six-game road trip, the Angels had some good vibes about their new direction. But now there is every reason to wonder if they’re again falling into a familiar rut.

Blanton was roughed up in an 11-4 loss to the Kansas City Royals on Monday night. Just like that, a 3-3 trip was forgotten.

On top of that, right fielder Josh Hamilton had to leave the game at the start of the seventh inning because of what manager Mike Scioscia described as a light-headed feeling.

Hamilton’s postgame response: “I was not light-headed.” He called it a respiratory or sinus infection, said he started taking medication a couple of days ago and is day to day.

“You don’t really get a sick day,” he said. “You come to the field, and unless you’ve got a 103 temperature, you play. My equilibrium wasn’t quite where it needed to be.”

That’s the way things are going this season for the Angels. Their balance is off, they’re nursing a variety of injuries, and even when their starting pitcher insists he’s throwing well, they’re still losing.

“I felt like my stuff was good,” Blanton said. “There was maybe a couple of innings where I was one pitch away from getting out. A couple of two-out hits cost me three, four of those runs.”

Blanton has made eight starts this season and is 0-7 with one no-decision and a 6.46 ERA. He gave up 12 hits and seven runs in 4 2/3 innings to the Royals, and that just doesn’t sound like a pitching line anyone would be proud of.

But Blanton stood in front of his locker and dared anyone to tell him otherwise.

“Sometimes it’s luck,” he said. “You could go out with very bad stuff and they could hit line drives right at people. It looks like you had a great day. Then sometimes you have games where there’s infield singles, broken bats, and it seems like every fly ball is just out of reach. Sometimes that’s the way it is.

“That’s baseball. It’s a messed-up game.”

Scioscia said there are no plans to remove Blanton from the rotation, and given the number of starting pitchers the Angels have been forced to use to far – nine, compared to eight all of last season – it doesn’t seem like a reasonable alternative.

Besides, Blanton had given the Angels (14-24) quality starts in each of his three previous starts, despite losing each time. And Scioscia said it was just a matter of failing to get his pitches in the right spots Monday.

“Joe is going to go right after guys and hopefully hit his spots, and that’s when all his pitches work together,” he said. “But there were a number of times he didn’t quite get the ball in the zone he wanted and those guys had some pretty good looks at it.”

The Royals finished with 19 hits. Designated hitter Billy Butler was 5 for 5 with five RBIs. Alcides Escobar and Salvador Perez had three hits apiece.

The Royals were coasting so easily that by the eighth inning, when a fan sprinted into the outfield before being caught by security trying to scale the wall, it was the only reason for Angels fans to cheer.

Here’s another: Projected closer Ryan Madson threw a scoreless ninth inning for Class A Inland Empire against Visalia on Monday night.

Madson won’t turn around the Angels’ fortunes, but at this point, it’s a comeback the team is anxious to see.