Mark Mulder’s injury won’t make Angels trust Joe Blanton

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Mark Mulder’s comeback attempt ending before it really even began thanks to a torn Achilles’ tendon took a dent out of the Angels’ rotation depth, but they still aren’t willing to trust Joe Blanton and his $8.5 million salary.

Blanton went 2-14 with a 6.04 ERA last season after signing with the Angels as a free agent and in talking to Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times manager Mike Scioscia made it pretty clear that he’s not guaranteed a rotation spot:

There was a crevice in the pitching staff that needed to be filled. It wasn’t a little crack. It was big. … Joe needs to make adjustments and put his best foot forward. He had a terrible season, but when he’s throwing to the best of his ability he’s capable of getting major league hitters out.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement from a guy the team gave $15 million to about 14 months ago. In terms of finding a silver lining in Blanton’s ugly 2013, as usual he posted a nice K/BB ratio at 108/34 in 133 innings, but he also served up 29 homers and that’s always been the biggest problem for him. He figures to be better, mostly because he can’t be worse, but Blanton hasn’t posted a better-than-average ERA since 2009.

Kershaw-Sale anything but a pitcher’s duel

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World Series Game 1 was billed as a battle of aces, the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw against Chris Sale of the Red Sox. Between them, they have 14 All-Star Game nominations. Kershaw has won three Cy Young Awards. Sale could his first Cy Young Award this year. Among his 10 seasons with at least 110 innings pitched, Kershaw has never posted an ERA above 2.92. Sale has been at 2.90 or below in each of the last two seasons. The two have combined for over 4,000 career strikeouts and both have averaged better than a strikeout per inning over their careers.

And yet Tuesday’s Game 1 was anything but a pitcher’s duel between Kershaw and Sale. Though a couple of fielding mistakes weren’t of any help to Kershaw in the first inning, Red Sox batters were squaring him up good. Of the five balls put in play in the first inning, three had exit velocities of 100 MPH or higher. Of the 12 total balls put in play against him overall, five reached triple digits in exit velo.

Kershaw gave up a pair of runs in the first, another run in the third on a J.D. Martinez double to straightaway center field, and another two in the fifth. Kershaw led off the fifth by walking Mookie Betts, then giving up a single to Andrew Benintendi, ending his night. Ryan Madson relieved Kershaw and proceeded to allow both inherited runners to score. All told, Kershaw yielded five runs on seven hits and three walks with five strikeouts on 79 pitches in four-plus innings.

Sale, meanwhile, was on the hook for individual runs in the second, third, and fifth. Dodger hitters weren’t squaring him up quite as well as the Red Sox batters squared up Kershaw, but Sale was still more hittable than usual. Of the eight balls put in play against him, four were at least 90 MPH in exit velo. One of the runs was a no-doubt solo home run to Matt Kemp in the second. The Dodgers chased Sale in the fifth when he issued a leadoff walk to Brian Dozier. Matt Barnes relieved him allowed the inherited runner to score. Overall, Sale threw 91 pitches in four-plus innings, serving up three runs on five hits and two walks with seven strikeouts.

The game is now, as has been generally the case throughout this postseason, a battle of the bullpens.