After relying on their offense for much of the season, the Los Angeles Angels' starting pitching has returned the favor recently. But Joe Blanton hasn't been able to count on much run support or a strong bullpen behind him lately as he continues to chase his second victory.
Blanton and the Angels look for that to change Saturday as they visit the Houston Astros, who already beat him twice this season.Los Angeles (37-43) has won 10 of 15 after Friday's 4-2 win at Houston. The Angels scored at least six runs in six of the first eight of those victories, but starters Jered Weaver and Jerome Williams limited opponents to a combined two runs in 13 1/3 innings in the last two.The 4.48 ERA by the starting staff ranks as one of baseball's worst, while the offense ranks in the top 10 in most major categories, including runs (4.7 per game) and on-base percentage (.331).Blanton's (1-10, 5.26 ERA) lone win came May 23, a 5-3 victory at Kansas City. The Angels' offense wasn't very cooperative in his next four starts, providing five runs of support as he lost three times with a 4.39 ERA. One of those was a 2-1 loss to Houston on June 3 when Blanton surrendered two runs and three hits over eight innings.Run support wasn't a problem for the AL's leader in losses in his last start, however, as he exited in line for a win after 7 1/3 innings with a 6-3 lead over Pittsburgh on Sunday. Los Angeles' bullpen failed Blanton this time, with Ernesto Frieri giving up three runs, leading to a 10-9 loss in 10 innings."Sometimes you have those years," said Blanton, who surrendered thee runs, one earned. "Baseball is a crazy game sometimes, and you've just got to keep executing out there and doing your work between starts and don't give up no matter what happens."He posted a 2-0 record and 2.57 ERA in five games -- four starts -- against the Astros before losing to them twice this year.Josh Hamilton has generally sputtered all season, but could be in line to provide some run support as he looks to continue a strong week. He went 2 for 3 with a run and a double Friday and is 7 for 16 with five runs in four games since not starting in last weekend's series versus Pittsburgh due to a sore right wrist.Hamilton is 4 for 12 with a home run off Houston starter Jordan Lyles (4-2, 3.68), but 0 for 5 this season.Lyles defeated the Angels both times he saw them earlier this year, allowing five runs in 10 2/3 innings with 11 strikeouts. He's coming off a rough outing Sunday in which he allowed eight runs -- five earned -- and 10 hits over five innings in a 14-6 road loss to the Cubs.Carlos Pena was 5 for 10 lifetime off Blanton before going 0 for 6 with four strikeouts this season. Chris Carter, who was 13 for 36 with seven doubles and two homers in 10 games before going 0 for 3 with a walk Friday, has two home runs in six at-bats versus Blanton.Houston committed two errors Friday and has been charged with 11 over the last eight games, pushing the club's major league-leading total to 63.