The Angels got a quality start Monday from Joe Blanton, their pitcher who has struggled the most, and a potential breakout night from the weakest link in their lineup, Josh Hamilton, who had his 16th career four-hit game and scored twice.
But they had nothing to show for it after the Texas Rangers stormed back from a three-run deficit with three runs in the seventh inning and rode A.J. Pierzynski’s two-out, solo home run to right field against closer Ernesto Frieri in the ninth to a 7-6 victory in Angel Stadium.
The game, and the Angels’ three-game winning streak, ended with Mark Trumbo, whose walk-off home run gave the Angels a 13-inning win over Detroit on Sunday, striking out on three pitches against closer Joe Nathan.
Blanton, who was 0-3 with an 8.59 earned-run average, gave up 12 hits in six innings but only three earned runs, and he was in position to win when the Angels ended a 3-3 tie with three runs in the sixth.
Hamilton and Howie Kendrick, who hit a two-run double in a three-run fourth, sparked the rally with singles. Chris Iannetta hit a two-out run-scoring double and Luis Jimenez hit a two-run single for a 6-3 lead.
But Blanton gave up a leadoff single to Elvis Andrus in the seventh, and Lance Berkman blooped a single to right against left-hander Michael Roth. On came Dane De La Rosa, who walked Adrian Beltre to load the bases.
Pierzynski singled to left for a run, and Nelson Cruz beat out a fielder’s choice grounder for a run that made it 6-5. On came Scott Downs, who bobbled pinch-hitter Jeff Baker’s chopper near the third base line for an error, Beltre scoring the tying run.
With runners on first and third, Mitch Moreland hit a bouncer to Downs, who threw to second to start an inning-ending double play.
Mike Scioscia dropped the struggling Hamilton from the cleanup to the fifth spot, but the Angels manager said the move is not permanent.
Hamilton began the game with a .176 average and 23 strikeouts in 68 at-bats, and he was hitting .053 (one for 19) against left-handers. Though two of his first three hits didn’t leave the infield, they came against left-hander Derek Holland.
Scioscia said Trumbo will bat cleanup against left-handers for now, and Hamilton, who raised his average to .222, would hit fourth against right-handers.
“We’re going to mix and match right now until Josh feels comfortable,” Scioscia said, adding that it was too early to give Hamilton a day off to clear his head.
“Right now, Josh wants to work through things, and the only way to find your stroke is to be out there seeing and hitting the ball,” Scioscia said. “I don’t think we’re at a dead end. He feels good physically, and his at-bats have improved. He’s just not where he needs to be.”
Hamilton had no problem with the demotion.
“Trum’s hot, and you want to give the hot guy more chances with guys in scoring position,” Hamilton said. “I’m OK with it. If I was hitting ninth, I’d be OK with it. I’ll be happy to not get a hit ever again as long as we keep winning.”