Angels' Joe Blanton pitches against the Kansas City Royals on Thursday… (Orlin Wagner / Associated…)
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — If this wasn't Joe Blanton's last stand, it was probably the Angels right-hander's second-to-last stand.
With Jered Weaver expected back next week, Tommy Hanson to follow shortly thereafter and fill-in starter Jerome Williams pitching well, Blanton's hold on a rotation spot seemed far more tenuous than Don Mattingly's grip on the Dodgers manager's job.
Blanton was 0-7 with a 6.62 earned-run average, third-worst in baseball, in his first nine starts and was tagged for a major league-high 86 hits in 501/3 innings. He had one, maybe two more games to prove he was rotation-worthy.
Thursday night in Kauffman Stadium, Blanton pitched as if he belonged, holding the Kansas City Royals to two runs and seven hits in 61/3 innings of a 5-4 Angels victory that extended their winning streak to five.
The highly efficient Blanton struck out one and walked none in an 87-pitch outing. After his first win as an Angel, he seemed oblivious to the possibility of being demoted to the bullpen if he didn't turn things around.
"I've been doing this for a long time — why should I feel urgency now?" Blanton said. "All you can do is keep making pitches, regardless of what happens."
The Angels pounded four home runs against Royals starter and ex-Angel Ervin Santana, including a prodigious Mike Trout blast to center in the first that was originally estimated at 433 feet. ESPN Home Run Tracker later tabbed it at 463 feet.
"Oh my gosh, did they run out of tape to measure it?" Manager Mike Scioscia said. "That thing was killed."
Albert Pujols (fourth inning) and Chris Iannetta (fifth) hit solo shots, and Mark Trumbo's two-run shot in the eighth, which gave the Angels a 5-2 lead, proved to be the difference for a club that has hit a major league-high 31 home runs in May.
Blanton's biggest pitch was a full-count cut-fastball that struck out cleanup batter Billy Butler with a runner on second to end the sixth, preserving a 3-2 lead. The Angels endured more tense moments in the final three innings
Left-hander Sean Burnett, making his first appearance since April 26, got Miguel Tejada to ground into an inning-ending double play with runners on first and third in the seventh.
"You want to be thrown into the fire from the get-go," said Burnett, who was out because of forearm irritation.
"It felt like old times. You have it in your mind to get a double-play ball; to have it actually happen was cool."
Garrett Richards got Butler to ground out with two on to end the eighth, and Robert Coello rescued wobbly closer Ernesto Frieri in the ninth, getting Alcides Escobar to fly out with two on for the first save of his career. Frieri gave up two runs and three hits and walked one during a 35-pitch ninth.
"There's no doubt he was getting tired," Scioscia said. "I felt better with a fresh arm coming in and giving Escobar a different look."
Frieri didn't mind.
"It was a tough outing for me, but we won, and that's all that matters," Frieri said.
"I would love to get the save, but it's not just about me; it's about the team."