As he does before every start, Hector Santiago leaned over the mound and drew lines with his glove from each side of the rubber toward home plate, the parallel markings a reminder for the Angels left-hander to “stay in my lane,” as he puts it.
“It’s about driving everything through the zone instead of getting balls running in and out,” Santiago said, “those crazy pitches that you don’t know where they’re going.”
The ritual helped Santiago rebound from an erratic 2014 season in which he was demoted to triple A to become one of the team’s best starters this season, but it was of no use Friday night.
Santiago veered out of his lane, skidded off the road and into a ditch in the first inning of a 9-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays in Angel Stadium.
Fighting his mechanics and struggling to find his release point, Santiago walked four during a three-run, 25-minute half-inning in which he threw 48 pitches. He lasted only 32/3 innings, matching his shortest start of the season, and fell to 7-7 with a 2.91 earned-run average.
“I just kind of lost it,” Santiago said.
So did his teammates. First baseman C.J. Cron dropped a routine popup in the third inning for an error, and another catchable popup fell between Cron, second baseman Ryan Jackson and right fielder Kole Calhoun in the seventh for a hit that cost the Angels a run.
Left fielder Shane Victorino committed his first error in more than two years when the ball popped out of his glove on a tough sliding catch attempt in the first, and he threw wild past home for another error in the ninth.
“If you’re not catching popups, you’re going to lose that game eight days a week,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “We lost this game in so many different ways, and defense was certainly one part of it. We have to play better.”
The all-around dismal effort was no match for Toronto left-hander David Price, who gave up two runs and six hits in eight innings, struck out nine and walked one to lead the Blue Jays to their 14th win in 18 games.
In four starts since being acquired from Detroit, Price is 3-0 with a 1.78 ERA and has struck out 33 and walked six in 301/3 innings.
The Angels fell 31/2 games behind Houston in American League West but are a half-game ahead of Baltimore and Texas for the second wild-card spot.
“You could probably look at a couple of things and say we deserved to lose two or three today, but fortunately, it was one loss,” Scioscia said. “We’ll play better tomorrow.”
As good as the Blue Jays are, with their quartet of vaunted right-handed sluggers in Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Troy Tulowitzki, their booming bats weren’t the problem for Santiago Friday night. Santiago was.
Santiago struck out Tulowitzki to open the game but lost his feel for the strike zone, with many of his pitches sailing high and wide. Santiago walked Donaldson, Bautista and Encarnacion to load the bases and got Justin Smoak to pop to shortstop for the second out.
But he walked Russell Martin on a full-count pitch to force in a run. Kevin Pillar followed with a flare to shallow left. Victorino raced in and attempted a sliding catch, the ball nicking off his glove for an error that allowed two runs to score.
It was Victorino’s first error since Aug. 14, 2013, ending a string of 113 games without an error.
Toronto scored six more runs, with Donaldson knocking in three to increase his AL-leading RBI total to 94, Ben Revere collecting four hits and Smoak hitting a two-run homer in the seventh.
But the tone was set in the first, when Santiago struggled.
“Hector just lost his release point and was all over the place,” Scioscia said. “When you’re sitting on almost 50 pitches in first inning, it’s tough to rebound from, no matter how much stamina you have.”
Left-hander Andrew Heaney (5-1, 2.43 ERA) will oppose Toronto right-hander Marco Estrada (10-7, 3.20) at Angel Stadium on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. TV: FS West; Radio: 830, 1330.