ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — After struggling in the middle of the season, Ervin Santana is turning it on late as he plays out the final year of his contract.
The right-hander struck out 11 while pitching seven innings of two-hit ball and the Los Angeles Angels beat the Chicago White Sox 6-2 on Friday night to gain ground in the playoff race.
“That shows he wants to win too,” teammate Torii Hunter said. “He’s stepped it up in the last three or four starts. He’s showing people he’s still got it.”
Mike Trout and Kendrys Morales homered for Los Angeles, which pulled within 3 games of Oakland for the second AL wild card. The Athletics lost 2-1 to the New York Yankees in 10 innings.
“We got to take care of what we can control on the field,” said Hunter, who had two RBIs. “Things got to go our way outside of what we do on the field. It’s doable.”
Chicago’s lead in the AL Central was trimmed to 1 games over second-place Detroit, which had its series opener against Minnesota postponed by rain. White Sox starter Jake Peavy (11-12) gave up five runs and eight hits in five innings.
“Tonight wasn’t my night,” Peavy said. “Santana was awfully good and shut us down, and it made for a long night.”
Alejandro De Aza got the White Sox off to a fast start with a leadoff homer in the first, but Santana (9-12) quickly recovered and retired 21 of his final 23 batters, walking Gordon Beckham with one out in the third and giving up a two-out single to Alexei Ramirez in the fifth.
Santana’s 11 strikeouts matched his career high and he only walked one while throwing 108 pitches. He said he’s not thinking about his future in Anaheim or possibly elsewhere.
“I just think right now,” he said. “I don’t have to prove anything. I have to believe in myself.”
Since Aug. 1, Santana has compiled a 2.88 ERA, sixth-best in the AL. He’s 4-2 with a 3.08 ERA over his last 10 starts.
“He’s found his stuff as the season has gone on,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “The last eight, nine, 10 starts have been what we expect and that’s what we want to see. Ervin didn’t take it easy when he was struggling. He was focused even in the times when he was struggling.”
Santana said nothing has changed since he scuffled earlier in the year.
“I just got better luck now and have to keep it up,” he said.
White Sox slugger Paul Konerko was back in the lineup a day after sitting out because of a minor back injury. He went 0 for 4 while serving as the designated hitter.
“He threw the ball very well, and he’s been doing that for a long time,” Konerko said of Santana. “This was probably the best I’ve ever seen him.”
Morales hit a leadoff drive in the second and Trout went deep in the seventh. Albert Pujols also had two RBIs.
The Angels grabbed the lead for good in the third when Pujols’ bloop single to left-center fell in front of center fielder De Aza, who misplayed the ball to allow Trout to score behind Chris Iannetta.
Hunter drove in two more runs in the fourth, extending the Angels’ lead to 5-1 with a bases-loaded single to left with two outs.
Trout now has 28 homers for Los Angeles, which had lost five of its previous seven home games. The rookie is one of the top contenders for the AL MVP award.
NOTES: The White Sox are 3 for 30 with runners in scoring position and have left 28 runners on base in their last four games. … Trout became the first major league rookie to score 120 runs or more in a season since Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki had 127 in 2001, and the fourth rookie since 1964 to notch 120 or more runs. … Hunter’s RBIs gave him 82 on the season, surpassing the 81 he had last year. … De Aza’s leadoff homer was the fourth of his career, and third this month.