This year, however, the Angels are the ones muttering under their breaths and asking the same question of themselves.
The burly Blanton threw bullets for eight innings and beat the Angels for the third time this season. Garret Anderson's club-record-tying RBI in his 10th consecutive game wasn't enough for the Angels in a 6-2 loss to Oakland before 34,000 Wednesday afternoon at Angel Stadium.
The American League West-leading Angels (82-57) now settle in for a four-game series at Angel Stadium with Cleveland (81-58) in a potential October prelude.
The Angels were more than happy to see Oakland (69-72) and Blanton (12-9) leave town, and bid farewell to games that usually prove to be tight, no matter the standings.
Angels starter Joe Saunders kept the score close, but couldn't keep the ball in the park on two occasions. He surrendered a three-run home run to Mark Ellis in the fourth inning. On Saunders' final pitch of the game, Donnie Murphy wrapped a pitch around the left-field foul pole to end the lefty's outing.
Saunders (7-3) has held down the fourth spot in the Angels rotation, but could stand to regain more effectiveness against right-handed hitters. Six of the seven hits he allowed in six-plus innings were to right-handed hitters, including a pair of home runs that changed the complexion of the game and spoiled what was an otherwise solid outing.
He gave up a three-run home run to Ellis in the fourth inning that gave Oakland a 3-2 lead. Saunders helped maximize the damage of Ellis' 17th home run of the year, which set an A's franchise record for single-season home runs by a second baseman. Saunders walked Marco Scutaro to lead off the inning and allowed a one-out single to Jack Cust.
"It's a shame, because it was really one inning," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "A fastball stayed up a little bit for Ellis. Outside of that, Joe made some adjustments and pitched a better game than the line score showed."
Saunders battled through the sixth inning, but when No. 9 hitter Murphy, who spent much of the season at Triple-A Sacramento, lined a home run to lead off the seventh inning, that was all Scioscia needed to see.
Saunders, who beat Oakland on Aug. 2, has not won since Aug. 19 against the Red Sox at Fenway Park. He allowed four runs, walking two and striking out four. All seven home runs he has surrendered this year have come to right-handed hitters, who are hitting .297 against him.
"His stuff matches up well against right-handers, though maybe not as effectively as it has been at other times of the year," Scioscia said. "Joe's been fine. He pitched well against the Red Sox, who are a predominantly right-handed hitting team."
Since that outing, a 3-1 victory, Saunders is 0-2 in three starts and has allowed 26 hits and 13 runs in 16 1/3 innings. His ERA in that span is 7.17, and his season ERA is at 3.78.
"I've had some bad luck in my last tree starts, and hopefully that will change for me," Saunders said. "I'm not concerned. I threw the changeup for a strike and [Murphy] dropped the barrel on it like Ellis did."
It was the second home run Ellis has hit against Saunders this year.
"The more I face him, I'll figure him out a little bit," Saunders said. "[Ellis] has obviously figured me out."
Blanton has figured out the Angels this year. Long a hard-luck loser against them, he began this year 0-6 vs. the Halos He gave up two runs in the first inning and then settled into an efficient groove that allowed him to pitch through the eighth inning.
"He's always been tough on us, especially in close games," Scioscia said. "As the game went on, he gained command of his breaking stuff, changed speeds, and pitched a pretty good game."
Blanton scattered six hits and two runs in eight innings, improving his mark to 3-0 with a 3.07 ERA against the Angels this year. Two of his victories have come at Angel Stadium. He gave up both runs in the first inning, then never allowed another runner to reach third base. He faced the minimum in his final five innings, using two double plays to his advantage, and retired 13 of the final 15 batters he faced.
"It's fun to go out there against a lineup like that," Blanton said. "You have to bring your 'A' game."
Anderson's RBI single in the first inning tied the club record shared by Fred Lynn (1984) and Wally Joyner (1986). Anderson, who leads the Major Leagues with 53 RBIs since the All-Star break, downplayed the achievement.
"I don't know if I have done anything like that," Anderson said. "You have to go back into the books. I've been playing too long."
Never one for reflecting on the moment, Anderson and the Angels already had begun to mentally prepare for the Indians. On the bright side, Blanton doesn't pitch for Cleveland.
John Klima is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.