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CHC@SEA: Iwakuma strikes out five over eight solid

Nothing has gone as planned for Angels right-hander Joe Blanton. He has a 2-11 record and 5.40 ERA in 18 starts on the season and just one win in his last eight starts, but he'll try to head into the All-Star break on a high note when the Angels and Mariners wrap up the first half at Safeco Field.

While Blanton, who allowed six runs on eight hits in five innings for the loss on Tuesday against the Cubs, doesn't think Sunday's start carries any extra significance, Angels manager Mike Scioscia is hoping to see more consistency out of the right-hander.

"You have to see every start to get a flavor for what's wrong with his season. Obviously, his raw numbers are not good," Scioscia said. "You see quality starts that are mingled with some of the rough starts. He has pitched better than some of his starts indicate, but overall he has not pitched the way we need him to."

While it has been an underwhelming first half for Blanton, Mariners right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma has flourished, going 7-4 with a 2.97 ERA and earning his first All-Star selection.

Over his last five starts, however, he has gone 0-3 with a 6.83 ERA. The long ball has been his Achilles' heel in many of those starts, allowing 10 home runs in his last four outings. A quality start on Sunday would be a big boost to Iwakuma's confidence.

Against the Red Sox on Tuesday, Iwakuma allowed six runs on eight hits in just three innings of a no-decision.

"Well, he's so consistent mentally, he handles everything," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "He's out there for the right reasons, and that's giving us a chance to win."

Angels: Hanson on track to rejoin rotation
Tommy Hanson, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list May 21 with a right forearm strain, appears to be on track to take the fifth spot in the rotation after the All-Star break. The right-hander looked good during a simulated game Saturday.

"Tommy's doing very well," Scioscia said. "He's going to throw another bullpen and then hopefully he'll have a rehab start next weekend and see when he's ready to be put back in our rotation.

"If he progresses and is ready, I would hope he'd be a candidate [to start July 23], but he needs to go out and pitch and we'll evaluate where he is."

Mariners: Pryor close to returning to bullpen
Reliever Stephen Pryor threw a simulated game before Saturday's game against the Angels without experiencing any setbacks, moving him another step closer to rejoining the Mariners.

"Pryor threw again today, looked good," Wedge said before Saturday's contest. "He had [Dustin] Ackley and [Franklin] Gutierrez hitting against him. It's his second sim game, and he feels good so we'll see how he feels tomorrow but we're hoping to get him out to [Class A] Everett over the All-Star break."

Pryor has only pitched 7 1/3 innings for Seattle this year, giving up one run on three hits.

Worth noting
• In 17 career starts against the Mariners, Blanton is 8-6 with a 3.50 ERA.

• The Mariners have hit at least one home run in a club-record 21 straight games.

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