The sooner Ervin Santana accepted the fact that an elbow injury had robbed him of the explosive 96-mph fastball he featured during his All-Star 2008 season, the better.
Of course, it took the right-hander almost two months and several shoddy starts to come to this realization, but now that he has, he and the Angels are reaping benefits.
Santana gave up three runs and seven hits in six innings of a 7-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays in the Rogers Centre on Saturday, a win Vladimir Guerrero helped procure with a tiebreaking homer in the sixth and Juan Rivera secured with a two-run shot in the eighth.
Santana, who sat out the first six weeks of the season because of an elbow sprain, was not dominant, but he won his fourth consecutive start because he had good command of a fastball that hovered between 90 and 93 mph and an excellent breaking ball and changeup.
His only glaring mistake was a fastball, up and over the plate, that Adam Lind belted for a three-run homer to tie the score, 3-3, in the third inning.
"I know I'm not going to throw 96, so I have to focus on location," said Santana, who improved to 7-6 with a 6.13 earned-run average. "If you locate your fastball, no matter how hard it is, you're going to get good results."
Mike Scioscia couldn't agree more.
"He's adapting and progressing a little bit," the Angels' manager said. "Last year, it was primarily a power fastball to both sides of the plate and a power breaking ball. I think the changeup is evolving, and it gives his fastball a little extra giddy-up.
"I like the consistent arm speed we're seeing from start to start. When he's hitting his spots at 92 to 94 mph with that power breaking ball, that's a terrific combination."
Especially when added to some timely hitting, great defense and solid relief. Figgins hit a run-scoring double and Maicer Izturis had a two-run double in the third, an inning that began with Aybar's double.
Guerrero, mired in a two-for-17 slump, lined a Scott Richmond slider over the left-field wall for his 11th homer to lead off the sixth, giving the Angels a 4-3 lead, and Rivera lofted a two-run, opposite-field shot to right, his 20th of the season, against Brian Tallet in the eighth.
The Angels tacked on another run in the eighth when Aybar singled and scored on a triple to right-center by Gary Matthews Jr. Darren Oliver threw two scoreless innings, and Kevin Jepsen added a scoreless ninth, as the Angels ended a losing streak at two games.
Aybar ranged far behind the second-base bag to glove Rod Barajas' fourth-inning grounder and threw to first for the out.
In the sixth, Figgins made a backhand stop of Randy Ruiz's grounder while sliding to his knees well behind the third base bag, got up in foul territory and made the long throw to first for the out.
"That ball actually hit the bag, and it kicked a little more foul," Figgins said. "I've never made a play on a ball that hit the bag."
The Blue Jays had a runner on first, and had Figgins not made the play, it probably would have been a double that put runners on second and third.
"That play Figgy made is as good as you're going to see," Scioscia said. "And the play Aybar made to his left was outstanding. . . . That's why he can be a difference-maker at shortstop."