Reporting from Arlington, Texas
Who would have guessed a Texas heat wave would cool off the sizzling Angels?
Or maybe the credit should go to the Rangers, who have been hotter than cayenne chili at home this season.
Either way, it was the Angels who blinked first when the presumptive West Division favorites squared off Monday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, where Texas rolled to an easy 7-1 win.
The teams will meet 18 more times this season, so the fact that the defending league champions drew first blood will probably be forgotten by the time the teams close out the season against one another in September.
At least that's the story the Angels were selling afterward.
"They know us. We know them," right fielder Torii Hunter said. "We've just got to keep pounding. And they're going to do the same.
"So it's going to be a grind. For both sides."
Still, as early season matchups go, this one was compelling.
The Angels came to Texas after sweeping a series in snowy Chicago, where the combined temperatures for the first two games — 78 degrees — was 13 degrees below Monday's first-pitch temperature of 91. And their starting pitching, which posted a 1.98 earned-run average during the five-game winning streak the Angels toted to Texas, wilted in the heat.
"I want to be perfect like them. But nobody can try to be somebody else," said Santana, a 17-game winner a year ago but the forgotten man in the Angels' rotation so far this spring.
To be fair, however, he was facing a much better team, one that is batting .301 and averaging seven runs a game in Texas, where the Rangers have won a franchise-record seven in a row and remain the only team in baseball yet to lose at home.
"They have a good lineup," Angels catcher Jeff Mathis said. "They can score at any time, off of anybody."
Santana (0-2) held them at bay for a while, facing just two batters over the minimum through 3 2/3 innings. But his night unraveled quickly after that with the next three runners reaching base ahead of Mitch Moreland's two-out, two-run single in the fourth.
The Rangers added four more off Santana (0-2) in the fifth, the big blow being a three-run a home run by Adrian Beltre, one of the free-agent targets the Angels let get away this winter.
That proved to be more than enough for C.J. Wilson (2-0) and a pair of relievers, who gave up 10 hits — including two each to Maicer Izturis, Howie Kendrick, Vernon Wells and Peter Bourjos. But the Angels wasted most of them, going just one for eight with runners in scoring position.
But, Kendrick reminded anyone who would listen, the teams will start again from scratch Tuesday.
"You can't really focus on one loss or one win. Because you've got a lot more games to play." he said.
"Tomorrow we have another opportunity to go back out and try to get a win. That's why we play every day."