His first night game of the year, in Dodger Stadium against a lineup filled with regulars, brought out the best in Angels left-hander Hector Santiago, who gave up three hits in five shutout innings in a 5-1 Freeway Series victory Friday night.
“It’s more realistic, you feel like the season is starting,” Santiago said. “There’s a little more adrenaline.”
The Angels can only hope Santiago takes this version of himself into the regular season. Known for his high pitch counts and walks, Santiago struck out four — including Joc Pederson, Corey Seager and Kenta Maeda in the third — and walked none. He worked ahead in counts, and of his 73 pitches, 50 were strikes.
“Don’t jinx it,” Santiago said, when asked about his lower walk rate. “I’m in attack mode, and over the years I’ve gotten more confident with all of my pitches. Before I would throw all first-pitch fastballs. Now it’s first-pitch sliders, curves, changeups and cutters.
“If you can throw a breaking ball early in the count, that’s a weapon. Then you have them guessing. They’re not just up there first-pitch hacking.”
Maeda, who made his Dodger Stadium debut after signing an eight-year, $25-million contract in January, needed only 49 pitches to complete his scheduled four innings, in which he gave up two runs and three hits, struck out two and walked none.
Johnny Giavotella struck out, but Yunel Escobar lined a run-scoring single to center that advanced Ortega to third, and Ji-Man Choi followed with an RBI groundout for a 2-0 lead.
Giavotella and Escobar contributed RBI singles in a three-run seventh off Dodgers relievers Yimi Garcia and Chris Hatcher, the final run scoring on Shane Robinson’s safety squeeze bunt that made it 5-0.
Seager, making his second straight start after missing three weeks because of a left-knee sprain, played all nine innings, a strong indication that the highly touted rookie shortstop will be ready for Monday’s season opener.
Angels first baseman Albert Pujols, who is recovering from right-foot surgery and has been relegated to designated-hitter duty for most of the spring, made his second start in the field and played five innings without incident.
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