CINCINNATI -- When the Cincinnati Reds acquired Shin-Soo Choo to solidify the leadoff spot, they realized his subsequent move to center field would be a work in progress. But the offensive upgrade already has paid dividends.
Choo cracked a leadoff homer Thursday as part of a two-hit afternoon, and the Reds took Los Angeles Angels starter Joe Blanton deep three times in a 5-4 win at Great American Ball Park.
"This guy has a lot of talent," Reds manager Dusty Baker said of Choo. "And, there's a lot more in there. He's just going to get better."
The Reds also got a solo homer from Todd Frazier, and a two-run blast by Chris Heisey, to take the series.
While the Reds have strengthened the top spot in their order, the Angels are waiting for the middle of theirs to get rolling. Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton began the season 0-for-17 with five strikeouts before briefly breaking out of their slump in the third inning Thursday.
But in the ninth inning, the Angels big boppers were unable to drive in the tying run from second off Reds closer Aroldis Chapman.
"I'm just hoping they would get out of town before they got hot," said Baker.
Mike Trout singled off Chapman to start the final inning and was sacrificed into scoring position by Erik Aybar, who went 3-for-4 with a run scored.
But Chapman retired Pujols on a line drive to right and struck out Hamilton swinging to earn his first save, after having appeared in non-save situations in the first two games of the series.
"Those guys looked like they were on pitches better today," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Hamilton and Pujols who were a combined 2-for-8 with four RBI on Thursday. "They just couldn't get that big hit in a couple of instances."
Cincinnati pitchers struck out 36 Angels in the three-game set, a new franchise record.
"They've got some tremendous players," Baker said of the Angels. "It was a great series. Every game was tight."
Blanton (0-1), signed as a free agent in the offseason, gave up seven hits in five innings. All of the runs came from three Cincinnati home runs.
"I felt like I located most of the day," Blanton said. "I gave up three homers, two were mistakes. That first pitch (to Choo) just got ambushed."
Bronson Arroyo (1-0) earned the victory, as he allowed three earned runs on eight hits and a walk in six innings.
Choo, acquired from the Cleveland Indians in December, went 2-for-4 and scored two runs. He jumped on Blanton's first pitch and launched an opposite-field shot to put the Reds ahead 1-0. Frazier led off the second with a line-drive homer to left, making the score 2-0.
Following Aybar's third-inning single, Pujols doubled and Hamilton singled to drive in both runners. Choo's throw beat Pujols to the plate, but Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan missed the tag, tying the score at 2.
Frazier doubled off the yellow line in left-center field in the fourth and went to third on Mike Trout's error. A video review confirmed it wasn't a homer. He scored moments later on Hanigan's sacrifice fly to give the Reds a 3-2 lead.
"We're playing some scrappy games, you never know what's going to happen," Frazier said. "As long as we come out on top, that's what matters. The offense came alive today. That was pretty nice."
The Angels re-tied the score in the fifth, but Heisey put Cincinnati up 5-3 with a two-run shot off Blanton, who allowed three or more homers for the ninth time in his career.
"I'm going to keep throwing strikes, as long as they're quality strikes," Blanton said. "I'm sure I'll have an outing where I don't throw well, but get good results. Sometimes you get away with it, sometimes you don't."
NOTES: Choo's homer was his sixth career leadoff home run. ... Reds lefty Sean Marshall is battling shoulder fatigue and wasn't available for the entire series. He told the Cincinnati Enquirer Thursday that he was "a day or two away" from making his first appearance. ... Angels catcher Hank Conger started behind the plate Thursday. It was a normal day of rest for Chris Iannetta who's 3-for-9 with a homer and three RBI in the series. ... Thursday's game was the 20,000th in Reds franchise history, which officially dates to 1882.