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Angels' Santana nearly perfect against D-backs

Santana's nearly perfect performance halts D-backs' momentum, spoils Saunders' strong start.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Ervin Santana was not perfect Saturday, but he was close enough to leave the Diamondbacks perfectly miserable.
 
Justin Upton had the D-backs' only hit, a solid single to center field with two outs in the seventh inning, as the D-backs suffered a 2-0 loss to the Angels on what has become a feast-or-famine road trip to the land of the designated hitter.
 
The D-backs been shut out twice and limited to one run in their three losses, two at Texas and one here, and they have 16 runs in their two victories. They finish interleague road play with the finale of a three-game series here Sunday.
 
Mark Trumbo’s two-run home run on a 3-2 curveball from Joe Saunders in the first inning was the difference Saturday night.
 
"You tell yourself, 'If you throw a breaking ball here, you might be able to surprise him.' He just wasn’t surprised. He looked like was right on the (darn) thing. You think if you can throw zeros up we can get back in this thing, but it just never happened," said Saunders, making his first appearance against the organization that drafted him since he was traded to the D-backs on July 25, 2010.
 
“I was kind of out of breath between innings, because it was like 1-2-3, 1-2-3, broken record.”
 
It's not as if Santana does not have the stuff. He threw a no-hitter in a 3-1 victory over Cleveland last July 27, when the Indians scored on an error, a stolen base, a groundout and a wild pitch. Based on current form, however, Santana’s outing would have been hard to predict. He was 3-5 with a 5.74 ERA and had give up 27 hits and 23 earned runs in his last four starts over 20 1/3 innings.
 
Saunders, in fact, tried to console Santana when the two saw each other at the park Friday. Both grew up in the Angels' organization.
 
"I said, 'Keep your head up,' because he wasn’t doing so well. I think I had some good words of advice, obviously,” Saunders said.
 
“I played with him for almost 10 years. He definitely has it in him.”
 
Santana had few close calls early. Upton hit a long fly to right-center in the first inning, Aaron Hill hit sharp line drive at Trumbo in left field in the second and Henry Blanco backed Trumbo to the left-field fence with a deep fly in the third.
 
Santana pitched from behind early, throwing first-pitch strikes to only six of the first 16 batters he faced, but got in a better rhythm as the game progressed.
 
“He started out a little erratic, then he kind of found the zone," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "It was kind of an even mix of ground balls and fly balls, and those guys (Angels outfielders) track everything down.”
 
Upton hit the first pitch he saw in the seventh sharply past shortstop Erick Aybar after Santana had retired the first 20 batters. The D-backs got just one other base runner, that coming when Miguel Montero walked as a pinch-hitter with one out in the ninth before Chris Young flew out to deep left field and Willie Bloomquist flew out to deep-ish right.
 
“Once he settled in, he was throwing all his pitches. Even when he would get behind, he would make quality pitches. He has a pretty good motion. Hides the ball well. Later in the game, he started going to his slider and changeups. A better mix. It was tough,” Gibson said.
 
Santana joined Nolan Ryan as the only two pitchers to throw both a no-hitter and a one-hitter while with the Angels.
 
While Santana cruised, Saunders walked a tightrope but was nearly as effective in his six innings. The Angels had runners in every inning except the third, but Saunders made pitches when he had to. He got Mike Trout to ground into a forceout on a nice play by Hill with two on to end the fourth, and he got out of a first-and-third, one-out situation in the sixth on a strikeout and a fly ball. His day was done after 115 pitches.
 
“Joe battled his tail off. He made one mistake,” Gibson said. "It was almost like for us last night -- Dan Haren made a couple of mistakes and we made him pay (in a 5-0 D-backs victory Friday), and tonight it was Joe. He gave us a chance to win the game."
 
Santana, who struck out five, got eight groundouts and 14 flyouts. He was the third opponent to take a no-hitter into the fourth inning against the D-backs on this trip.
 
Rangers right-hander Colby Lewis got the D-backs' trip off on the wrong foot when he retired the first 16 batters before hot-hitting Hill broke up his perfect game with a line-drive single to left field in the sixth inning. He was erased on a double play, and the D-backs did not get their next hit until Miguel Montero homered with one out in the eighth. It was 8-0 Texas by then.
 
Left-hander Matt Harrison was almost as effective in 1-0 victory the next night. Upton broke up that no-hitter with a single to center field with one out in the fourth. The D-backs had six hits but only got two runners as far as second base. Willie Bloomquist’s one-out double in the eighth inning was their only extra-base hit, and he did not get off second.
 
“I thought we swung the bats well. We just didn’t have anything to show for it,” said Upton, who has 11 hits in his last eight games.

“We struggled early on in Texas,  but the last game we got it going and last night. We got the barrel to some balls they caught in the outfield (Friday). Obviously we rolled over some balls, so I can’t say we swung it great. We didn’t strike out a lot. It’s just the way game goes sometimes. Right at people or just missing. That’s baseball.

"If you could square it up all the time, everybody would hit .400.”