SEATTLE — A first half of struggles and frustration for Los Angeles Angels starter Joe Blanton finally reached a tipping point on Sunday.
Blanton (2-12) lasted just four innings – his shortest outing of an already lackluster season – and the Angels were swept with a 4-3 defeat at the hands of the Seattle Mariners.
After putting together three solid outings to end the month of June, Blanton has been knocked around in his last three starts. He has just one victory in his last nine starts and quickly fell behind Seattle again on Sunday. Michael Saunders hit a two-run home run in the second inning to give the Mariners the lead and Mike Zunino delivered a sacrifice fly to score another run in the fourth inning to put Seattle on top 3-0.
That's when Blanton's anger over his performance finally boiled over.
Blanton attacked a water cooler and threw it to the ground in the Angels dugout after coming off the mound following the fourth inning. He then appeared to get into a verbal altercation with catcher Chris Iannetta. Pitching coach Mike Butcher was also involved in the squabble.
Iannetta called it "a miscommunication" but wouldn't elaborate on the incident. Blanton was also mum on specifics but chalked it up to frustration.
"Any time things aren't going good it kind of brings things to a little volcano, a little head, whatever you want to call it," Blanton said.
"Things aren't going well. You try and do more out there competing with everything. Things happen. Guys get mad at giving up runs, striking out. It's part of it sometimes."
Iannetta and manager Mike Scioscia both claimed the incident won't be an issue.
"It was something between us," Iannetta said. "Really not that big of a deal."
Blanton returned to the mound for the fifth inning but didn't remain there long. Brad Miller singled, Nick Franklin walked and Raul Ibanez doubled to score a run and chase Blanton from the game.
"All I could throw today was a fastball," Blanton said. "It makes it tough. I didn't have my changeup or curve to go to. Either one. It made it a tough day to pitch when all you can throw for a strike is your fastball."
Hisashi Iwakuma (8-4) won for the first time in over a month as the Mariners completed their first sweep of the season. Iwakuma gave up three runs in seven innings for his first win since June 10. He had allowed at least four runs in each of his prior five starts, losing three of them.
"(Iwakuma) competes every time he goes out there and he pitches well against us every time and he has pitched well against the league too," Howie Kendrick said.
Tom Wilhelmsen pitched a perfect ninth inning to pick up his 19th save of the season.
Justin Smoak led off the second inning with a single before Saunders' home run gave Seattle a 2-0 lead.
The Mariners have homered in 22 consecutive games, the longest streak in the majors since Atlanta's 23-game run in 2006. Seattle's string is the best by an AL club since Texas set the big league record with 27 in 2002.
Mark Trumbo hit his 21st homer in the Angels fifth. It was the 11th home run off Iwakuma in his last five starts.
After Ibanez's double in the fifth, Michael Kohn entered to replace Blanton and struck out the side to limit the damage for the Angels.
Los Angeles rallied in the sixth. Alberto Callaspo hit a two-out single with the bases loaded to score Mike Trout and Howie Kendrick as the Angels pulled within a run.
Sluggers Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols went a combined 1 for 8 as the Angels went into the All-Star break at 44-49.
"We've gotten better but we are not where we need to be," Scioscia said. "We need to become the team we can be and play consistent baseball. It's in this group. We just need to get it going."
NOTES: Mariners RHP Stephen Pryor will begin a rehab assignment with Single-A Everett either Monday or Tuesday of this week. He has been on the disabled list since April 15 with a torn back muscle. ... Blanton leads the league in losses (12), hits allowed (148) and home runs allowed (23). ... Mariners 3B Kyle Seager extended his hitting streak to 14 games. Since June 30 Seager is batting .442 with two doubles, five home runs, 10 RBI, eight walks and 16 runs scored. ... Angels CF Mike Trout extended his hitting streak to 10 games. He's batting .417 with four doubles, two triples, two home runs, six RBI, five walks and eight runs scored since July 3. ... Angels 2B Alberto Callaspo extended his hitting streak to nine games. ... Iwakuma is not expected to pitch in the All-Star game Tuesday.