SEATTLE — The Angels lost to the Seattle Mariners, 4-3, Sunday in Safeco Field, but they didn’t go down without a fight … among themselves.
Struggling right-hander Joe Blanton knocked a water cooler off the bench and snapped at pitching coach Mike Butcher in the dugout after the fourth inning, the lowlight of an afternoon in which the Mariners completed a three-game sweep that dropped the Angels 11 games behind first-place Oakland in the American League West entering the All-Star break.
Blanton has been one of the worst pitchers in the majors, with a 2-12 record, 5.53 earned-run average and a major league-leading 23 home runs given up, and the cumulative frustration of his season seemed to get the best of him Sunday.
Blanton’s anger after giving up a run in the fourth stemmed from a “miscommunication” between him and catcher Chris Iannetta, though Blanton, Iannetta, Butcher and Manager Mike Scioscia would not say what the miscommunication was.
“Any time things aren’t going well, it kind of brings everything to a little volcano or whatever you want to call it,” Blanton said. “It’s a long season. You’re out there competing. Things happen. Guys get mad for giving up runs, for striking out, for a ton of different reasons. That’s part of it sometimes.”
The incident, captured by television cameras, appeared to involve Blanton and Butcher, “but it was a miscommunication between two different people,” Butcher said. “I was trying to get between the two. I was trying to get Joe out of the dugout.”
Said Iannetta: “It was something between us. We got over it pretty quickly. Once we talked about it, it wasn’t that big of a deal.”
A bigger problem for Blanton on Sunday was that he had no feel for his changeup and curve and was essentially reduced to one pitch, his fastball.
That didn’t work too well, as Blanton gave up a two-run home run to Michael Saunders in the second inning, a sacrifice fly to Mike Zunino in the fourth and a run-scoring double by Raul Ibanez in the fifth.
Michael Kohn bailed out Blanton in the fifth inning, entering with runners on second and third and none out and striking out Kendrys Morales, Justin Smoak and Saunders to keep the score at 4-1.
“Actually, the command of my fastball wasn’t that bad,” Blanton said. “But if all you can throw is a fastball, it makes it tougher.”
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, who had a 6.83 ERA in his previous five starts, gave up three runs and seven hits in seven innings, striking out seven, to improve to 5-0 with a 1.49 ERA in seven games against the Angels.
Mark Trumbo hit his team-leading 21st home run, a solo shot in the fifth inning, and the Angels pulled to within 4-3 in the sixth inning when Mike Trout singled, Howie Kendrick doubled and Alberto Callaspo followed an intentional walk to Trumbo with a two-run single.
But with runners on first and third, Iwakuma struck out Iannetta to end the inning. Albert Pujols led off the eighth with a double, but Charlie Furbush got Josh Hamilton to pop to third base and Kendrick to fly to right field and struck out Trumbo.