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Joe Blanton's best still not enough for Angels

He goes eight innings to give the bullpen a break, but Angels manage only four hits in a 5-1 loss to Chris Tillman and the Baltimore Orioles.

May 02, 2013|By Kevin Baxter

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More than a month into the season, Angels Manager Mike Scioscia admits he's still not sure what kind of team he has. That's understandable, because he really hasn't seen his team much.

"It's tough to evaluate exactly what our team's going to be because the team hasn't been out there," said Scioscia, who has lost his top starter, the left side of his infield and his starting center fielder and leading hitter to injuries in April. "So it's tough to say, 'Well, this will happen or that will happen.'"

It would have been extra tough to predict all the things that happened in the Angels' 5-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday, mainly because many of them hadn't happened all season. Like Angels starter Joe Blanton retiring the side without a hit in the fourth inning and retiring the Orioles in order an inning later.

BOX SCORE: Orioles 5, Angels 1

Blanton (0-5) had managed neither of those feats through his first five starts in a season in which he has given up more hits (55) and the second-highest opponents' batting average (.353) in the majors. But in this one he turned in one of the best starts by an Angel this season, yielding two earned runs in eight innings to give the beleaguered bullpen a rest

"When things aren't going good, you kind of retrace your steps of things you've done in the past that sometimes clean you up," said Blanton, who corrected a mechanical flaw between starts. "You try one step and you think it's better, but it's not. You try another one and keep going until it clicks.

"Hopefully it happens quick, but sometimes it doesn't."

Unfortunately for Blanton, Baltimore's Chris Tillman was even better — which was somewhat predictable because the right-hander made quality starts his last two times out. Tillman (2-1), who went to school 12 miles from Angel Stadium in Fountain Valley, gave up three hits through eight scoreless innings, retiring 11 in a row between Hank Conger's one-out single in the second and a leadoff single in the sixth by Erick Aybar.

He was luckier too. While a throwing error by third baseman Brendan Harris cost Blanton a run in the seventh, Orioles' right fielder Nick Markakis saved Tillman in the first by throwing out Mike Trout at the plate when Trout chose not to slide.

Trout was involved in another unusual play in the ninth when he leaped at the center-field wall and got his glove on Nate McLouth's drive, only to have the ball squirt out, roll briefly along the padding on the top of the fence, then drop behind for a two-run homer.

Only a ninth-inning homer from Albert Pujols — his fifth of the season and third in four games — prevented the Angels from being shut out for the third time. As it was, they matched a season low with four hits.

And for Scioscia and his unpredictable team, that means there is only one direction to go.

"It's tough after you lose a game to look and see some positives," he said. "But there definitely were some things we could take away. We know there's a lot of work ahead of us for us to become the team that we can be."

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

Twitter: @kbaxter11

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