Ervin Santana makes Blue Jays look like hacks in Angels’ 3-1 win
Right-hander Ervin Santana thought his changeup was his best pitch against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday. Manager Mike Scioscia said Santana’s fastball command was his most effective weapon.
Told of Scioscia’s comment, Santana chuckled and said, “He’s not pitching, I’m pitching.”
Why quibble? The way Santana was locating his fastball, changeup and slider, and the way Toronto hitters were hacking — these guys make those Vladimir Guerrero-led Angels clubs of a few years ago look like the princes of plate discipline — just about everything Santana threw toward the plate was his best pitch.
Santana tossed the sixth complete game of his career, giving up one run and four hits and needing only 106 pitches to dispose of the Blue Jays in a 3-1 victory that gave the Angels a rare three-game sweep in the Rogers Centre, which has not been kind to them.
The Angels entered the weekend with a 39-66 record in Toronto’s retractable-roof stadium, their worst mark at any park, but behind some superb starting pitching and clutch hitting, they recorded their first Rogers Centre sweep since July 9-11, 2004.
“Everything was working how I wanted — this is the best all three pitches have felt since 2008,” said Santana, who was slowed for most of 2009 by an elbow sprain. “I felt strong in the ninth. I threw fewer pitches because they were swinging at everything.”
Santana struck out six, walked one and retired 16 consecutive batters before giving up a solo home run to Adam Lind on a full-count slider with two out in the ninth. Santana threw only six pitches in each of the fifth and sixth innings.
“He was nice and smooth, hitting his spots, throwing his slider and changeup for strikes and his fastball to both sides of the plate, which kept them honest inside,” catcher Jeff Mathis said.
“When he’s feeling good, feeling all three pitches, it’s fun to be back there. He got some early-count outs. Those guys were hacking. They were aggressive, which is why some innings went quick.”
Spotty starting pitching contributed to the Angels’ early-season struggles, but the last turn through the rotation produced gems by Joel Pineiro (seven innings, one earned run) against the New York Yankees, and Jered Weaver (seven innings, two earned runs), Joe Saunders (eight innings, no earned runs) and Santana against the Blue Jays.
The only stinker was Scott Kazmir’s four-inning, six-run effort in Thursday night’s loss to the Yankees.
“It’s a matter of guys settling into the season, pitching to their capabilities and feeling good about their arms,” Scioscia said. “We’ve got to keep passing that baton, keep it going.”
The Angels were two for 14 with runners in scoring position and managed only seven hits Sunday, but Hideki Matsui provided two big ones, a two-out, run-scoring double for a 1-0 lead in the sixth and a leadoff double to spark a two-run ninth.
Erick Aybar doubled ahead of Matsui and scored in the sixth. First baseman Lyle Overbay’s error allowed the Angels to score their first run in the ninth, and Mathis added a run-scoring double against reliever Scott Downs.
Five of Matsui’s eight RBIs this season have given the Angels the lead. Matsui is also four for eight with two out and runners in scoring position.
“I saw him in the playoffs, you know what you’re getting — the man can hit,” Mathis said of Matsui, the former Yankees designated hitter.
“He has such a good idea at the plate, he almost knows what the pitcher is going to try to do to him when he steps in the box. That’s what it looks like. It’s fun to watch.”