Angels surrender five homers in Windy City
Pujols' two-run shot the lone spark in rocky start for Blanton
CHICAGO -- It was summertime in Chicago, the wind was blowing out of small Wrigley Field, and the homer-prone Joe Blanton was on the mound Tuesday night.
For the Angels, that's a bad combination.
And in the end, so was the result: Five home runs, and a 7-2 loss to the Cubs.
Four of those homers were given up by Blanton, tying a career high that was also done in May 2012. Anthony Rizzo and Alfonso Soriano hit back-to-back solo shots in the first, Starlin Castro added another in the third and a 5-foot-10 Darwin Barney -- batting eighth, in front of the pitcher's spot -- provided the crushing blow in the sixth, belting a three-run homer to left-center field that gave the Cubs an insurmountable 6-0 lead.
Wrigley Field began Tuesday leading the Majors in runs, via ESPN's Park Factors, and Blanton finished Tuesday leading the Majors in homers allowed with 22 -- one ahead of the Royals' Jeremy Guthrie.
The homers Blanton gave up, though, might've been gone anywhere.
"I really didn't have good stuff tonight," Blanton said. "It was one of those games. I tried to battle through and just made too many mistakes over the plate."
Blanton had a quality start in six of his previous eight outings, but became one of four pitchers -- joining Ervin Santana, Matt Cain and Guthrie -- to allow three or more homers on three separate occasions this season, moving to 2-11 with a 5.40 ERA in 18 starts.
With soft-tossing lefty Travis Wood lulling the offense to sleep on the other side, giving up only an Albert Pujols two-run homer in 6 2/3 innings, the Angels had little chance. They lost for only the third time in their last 13 games and must win their next four to have a winning record by the All-Star break.
Blanton's 11 losses are tied with the Phillies' Cole Hamels for the Major League lead. His 143 hits allowed -- in 108 1/3 innings -- put him alone at the top.
"Not a good game for Joe," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia, whose club finishes a two-game series in Chicago on Wednesday, is off Thursday, then wraps up the first half with a weekend set in Seattle. "When he's on, he's able to command that fastball in and out and bring his secondary pitches and put guys away. Today, he didn't have enough good counts. When it came down to making a pitch, sometimes he did, sometimes he didn't."
He especially didn't in the bottom of the sixth, with the deficit still only three. Dioner Navarro led off with a double and Nate Schierholtz was plunked by a first-pitch cutter. Blanton fell behind 2-1 on Barney -- the 13th of 25 batters he trailed in the count -- and hung a changeup that easily cleared the ivy in left-center field, giving Barney five homers in 295 plate appearances and prompting Blanton to exit.
"I think I left a little too much plate," said Blanton, who gave up eight hits and walked three batters for only the second time this year. "I was hoping to get a ground ball. Again, behind in the count. I have to be a little more aggressive and I wasn't able to locate when I get behind in the count like I usually can."
When Soriano went deep off Michael Kohn in the bottom of the seventh, the Angels had set a season high by giving up five homers.
But it mattered little.
The Angels (43-46) had blown their only real shot at coming back the previous half-inning. They finally got to Wood, on Pujols' 14th homer of the year and the 489th of his career, then loaded the bases with two outs. But Matt Guerrier struck out pinch-hitter Brad Hawpe to end the threat, and that was pretty much it.
Wood, recently named to the National League All-Star team, faced the minimum through the first five innings and notched his Major League-leading 17th quality start, leading the Cubs (40-48) to their fourth straight victory.
"It's fun playing behind him," Barney said of Wood, who now has a 2.69 ERA in 18 starts. "He elevates his cutter so well. Even with the wind blowing out, he wasn't afraid to do that."