Santana rediscovers his old form in win


If the Angels hope to reach the postseason again this season, then hang around for more than a week once they get there, they're going to have to do more than just bludgeon teams with their bats.

They're going to have to pitch a little too, and aside from John Lackey, that has been a problem lately, with the Angels' 4.76 ERA the highest of any winning team in baseball.

All of which could make Ervin Santana the key to the rest of the season. Especially if he keeps pitching as he did Tuesday when he shut out the Tampa Bay Rays on three hits in a 6-0 victory.

"My confidence level is going up," said Santana, who retired 12 of the final 13 batters he faced to wrap up the third shutout of his career.

"I know what I have to do to keep winning. Because I'm a winning pitcher. I'm not a losing pitcher."

For most of the season he has been a hurt pitcher, making two trips to the disabled list because of elbow trouble.

And even when he has been healthy enough to get on the mound, he has displayed little of the form that helped him win 16 games and a spot in the All-Star game last year, giving up at least five earned runs in half of his 14 starts.

But Santana said he can't worry about his elbow when he takes the mound. Not now.

"I know that it's not going to be the same velocity," said Santana, whose three hits given up marked a career low. "I just don't worry about that. If I worry about it, it's going to be a big problem."

Besides, some of his recent numbers are deceiving, Manager Mike Scioscia said. Although Santana (5-6) gave up four runs and walked five in six innings in his last start in Chicago, that was partly because his pitches were moving so much he couldn't control them.

"We could see it coming," Scioscia said. "He's been having much more life on his fastball."

The difference Tuesday was he was able to control it, throwing first-pitch strikes to 21 of the 29 batters he faced.

"He had terrific stuff tonight. He couldn't have pitched a better game," Scioscia said.

"I don't even remember him missing a spot tonight."

But as good as Santana was, for the first four innings Tampa Bay starter David Price was even better, retiring 12 of the first 13 batters he faced with only shortstop Maicer Izturis, hit by a pitch with one out in the fourth, reaching base.

Izturis, who left the game an inning later because of a bruised right elbow, was examined in the clubhouse and precautionary X-rays were taken. He said the elbow was sore and he didn't expect to be able to play today.

The Angels were soon putting a hurt of their own on Price, stringing together three consecutive two-out singles to score three times in the fifth, then adding three more runs on catcher Jeff Mathis' two-out double off the left-field fence in the sixth.

That proved to be more than enough for Santana.

"He was pretty on point," said Mathis, who was two for three. "He was in to the righties, in to the lefties. That slider was there. It was fun and I know he enjoyed it."

So did the Angels, whose rotation has been so battered that when rookie Trevor Bell takes the mound this afternoon he'll be the fifth rookie to start for the team this season.

But now Scioscia finds himself hoping Tuesday's shot in the arm from Santana will bring a little stability to a staff that hasn't had much of that this season.

"A lot of areas on our team needed a performance like that," he said.


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