Yesterday afternoon on getaway day in Cincinnati, the Angels dropped their second straight 5-4 decision to the Reds to lose two of three in their first series of the season.
Angels starting pitcher Joe Blanton did Joe Blantony things in that he kept the walks down—only one over five innings of work—he struck out four, but he gave up three homeruns including one to Shin-Soo Choo on Blanton’s first pitch as an Angel.
Todd Frazier then led off the second inning with a home run of his own before Josh Hamilton picked up his first hit as an Angel, driving in two with a third inning single that tied the game. After a Ryan Hanigan sac-fly scored Frazier again in the bottom-of-the-fourth to give the Reds a 3-2 lead, the Angels tied it again with their own sac-fly by Albert Pujols off of Reds’ starter Bronson Arroyo that scored Mike Trout.
In the bottom-of-the-fifth, the Reds again took the lead when Choo led off the inning with a base-hit to center and was brought in by the Reds’ third home run, this time off the bat of Chris Heisey. Blanton finished out the inning, but was replaced in the sixth by Mark Lowe who threw two scoreless innings for the second time in three games.
The Angels made another run at things in the top-of-the-seventh when Trout led off the inning with a double to deep center of off Reds’ reliever Alfredo Simon. He would come in to score after two sacrifice grounders from Erick Aybar and Pujols. Simon would then proceed to plunk Hamilton and give up a double to Mark Trumbo, putting runners at second and third, but the sacrifice grounders would come back to haunt them as the next batter, Howie Kendrick, flied out to right to end the inning.
Sam LeCure came on for the Reds and struck out the side in the eighth and then Aroldis Chapman shut the door in the ninth for this first save of the year, striking out Josh Hamilton to end the game.
As I’ve mentioned a few times already, this Angels pitching staff kind of scares me. Although I’ve always liked Jered Weaver, he’s always been a tad overrated and included in “ace” conversations when it’s doubtful he ever truly belonged there. Now that his velocity’s down, it’s hard to see him being much better than average with an 85-87 MPH fastball. His next few starts will be vitally important; if that lost velocity was a one-time thing, then okay—if it wasn’t, the Angels could be in big trouble.
Joe Blanton will likely be okay as long as he’s pitching in pitcher-friendly ballparks, but places like Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati and Rangers Ballpark in Arlington are the death of him given his propensity for surrendering the long ball.
Blanton is not an overpowering pitcher, relying on an 86-89 MPH four-seam fastball while mixing in equal doses of cutters, sliders and changeups. He’ll also throw a sinker and the odd curveball. The trade off for his excellent control is that he ends up giving up the inevitable hard contact that goes with it and yesterday was the perfect example. The Choo homerun was well located, down in the zone on the outer-half of the plate, but the other three—as well as Frazier’s fourth-inning double which missed being out by mere inches—were all in places you don’t want to leave a ball when a hitter with any power is at the plate.
It’s obviously way too early to make any real judgements either way, but color me concernicus. The Angels better score a ton of runs this year.