ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — A trip back to Angel Stadium cures anything that might be wrong with Mike Napoli’s swing.
Napoli homered twice in yet another impressive game against his former team, Yu Darvish struck out 11 over seven strong innings, and the Texas Rangers battered struggling Angels starter Ervin Santana for a 9-2 victory over Los Angeles on Saturday.
Napoli, Yorvit Torrealba and Adrian Beltre homered during Texas’ five-run second inning, chasing Santana (4-10) after just 13 batters. Napoli, who had three hits in Friday’s series opener, added another homer off reliever David Carpenter in the third.
Although he returned to Anaheim enmeshed in a monthlong slump, the All-Star catcher just won’t stop beating up on the franchise that drafted him and then traded him to Toronto in January 2011 for Vernon Wells, the high-priced outfielder who has been a big disappointment for the Angels.
“When I come here and do well, it definitely feels good inside,” Napoli said.
Napoli has done a bit better than well in his return visits to the Rangers’ AL West rivals, who again dropped six games behind Texas in the division race after winning Friday’s opener. Napoli has hit safely in 13 of his 14 games at Angel Stadium since the trade, with a jaw-dropping eight homers, 12 RBIs and nine multihit games.
Napoli, who was in an 8-for-47 skid over the previous 14 games, acknowledges a familiarity with the Angels’ starting rotation. He still can’t explain why he crushes almost everything he sees here.
“Just catching all these guys, I have an idea of what they like to do, but they’re going to try to attack my weaknesses and mix things up,” Napoli said. “I go in there knowing they’re going to be tough on me. There’s that extra competitive thing against your friends.”
Darvish (11-6) had little trouble holding an early seven-run lead in the Japanese All-Star’s first victory of July, yielding three hits and four walks. Staked to a first-inning lead for a change, he avoided the slow starts that have plagued him during a strong rookie season.
Darvish has struck out a career-high 11 four times this season. He set a Rangers rookie record with his sixth double-digit strikeout game, fanning every Angels starter except Alberto Callaspo.
“Some of the problems I’ve been having in the first inning, I paid particular attention to,” Darvish said through a translator. “Beating a very good offensive team like the Angels naturally gives you confidence.”
Torrealba had three hits in his return from paternity leave, while Ian Kinsler homered and drove in three runs for the Rangers, who have won six of nine.
Mike Trout had an RBI single and later scored a run in his 13th straight game for the Angels, tying the franchise record and the AL rookie record. Los Angeles managed just four hits.
Santana’s latest awful start deflated another showdown between the AL West’s top teams after the Angels gained ground on Texas for the first time since July 5 in the opener.
Santana gave up eight hits and six runs before leaving the Angel Stadium mound to loud boos from the same crowd that watched him throw a one-hitter last month. The Angels are 4-15 in starts by the Dominican right-hander, who has yielded 23 homers already this season, capped by Beltre’s 18th in the second inning.
“They jumped on every pitch that I threw early, but it happens,” Santana said. “I just have to keep positive and keep pitching. If I knew what was wrong, I’d make an adjustment. I’m just doing the best I can right now. Every bullpen I throw, I’m getting better and better, but I’m not getting good results yet.”
Angels manager Mike Scioscia refused to indicate whether Santana’s rotation spot is in danger.
“We have a lot of confidence in what Ervin can do, and he has shown it at times this year,” Scioscia said. “Just last week, he pitched a terrific game in Detroit to give us a chance to win. This, obviously, was not what we were looking for this afternoon.”
Michael Young’s RBI single was among Texas’ three hits in the first inning. Napoli and Torrealba led off the second with back-to-back homers, followed by consecutive doubles by Craig Gentry and Kinsler.
The Rangers activated Torrealba before the game, and the catcher finished a triple shy of hitting for the cycle in his first game in six days. Kinsler added a two-run shot in the eighth off Hisanori Takahashi.
Trout drove in the Angels’ first run in the third inning, and he matched Jim Edmonds’ franchise record from 1995 when he scored on Hunter’s fifth-inning single. Trout is the first AL rookie to score in 13 straight games since Don Lenhardt in 1950 — and he got in scoring position with his 22nd consecutive stolen base.
NOTES: Darvish has double-digit strikeouts in four of his last six starts. …
Angels SS Erick Aybar left the game in the eighth inning after bruising
his right big toe with a foul ball. … Los Angeles optioned OF Kole
Calhoun to the minors after the game to make room for Dan Haren’s return
from the DL on Sunday to start the series finale against 12-game winner