Angels roll past A’s for fourth-straight victory

These days, Ervin Santana isn’t getting hung up on his velocity being a little down. Not after elbow and forearm injuries landed him on the disabled list twice already this season.

It’s a relief just to be pitching well again, locating and getting ahead of hitters.

Santana showed that he’s back on track and ended a three-start losing streak, Kendry Morales hit a two-run homer and the Los Angeles Angels beat the Oakland Athletics 6-2 on Thursday night for their fourth straight win.

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“I’m trying to put everything together in the second half, refocus, forget about the first half,” Santana said. “Good step today.”

Chone Figgins added a two-run double in a four-run fourth and Mike Napoli had a double among his three hits for the first-place Angels. They began the second half by winning for the eighth time in their last 10 road games to move a season-high 13 games over .500 (50-37).

Santana (2-5) pitched eight strong innings and bounced back from an 8-1 loss at Texas on July 8 in which he was tagged for three home runs in four-plus innings. He had dropped five of his last seven starts, with his other win coming June 5 against Detroit.

“His stuff isn’t quite the same as last year, but he has plenty not only to compete but to win,” manager Mike Scioscia said.

Justin Speier relieved and gave up three straight singles to start the ninth. That prompted Scioscia to turn to closer Brian Fuentes, who allowed Matt Holliday‘s sacrifice fly before finishing for his majors-leading 27th save and 14th straight.

Morales connected for his 16th homer in the second to stake Santana to a quick lead. The drive extended Morales’ career-best hitting streak to 16 games.

Santana gave up only Holliday’s solo homer in the seventh. He allowed three hits, struck out four and walked two. The right-hander is 10-1 lifetime with a 1.35 against the A’s.

“The biggest thing I noticed is he’s throwing a lot more off-speed pitches and getting it across for strikes and keeping it down in the zone,” Oakland’s Ryan Sweeney said. “He isn’t throwing as hard as he used to, but he’s spotting the ball up good and throwing his pitches where he wants to throw them.”

Santana admits to checking out the radar gun as he works his way back.

“The first few starts, it’s, ‘What’s going on – 88, 81, 85?”‘ Santana said. “I’m focusing on pitching. Velocity’s going to come some day. I want to be where I was last year. That’s my goal.”

Oakland looked sluggish as it kicked off a grueling stretch of 28 games in as many days and 34 in 35. Nomar Garciaparra is scheduled to get the start at first base on Friday night for the A’s, and manager Bob Geren plans to use him once a series in place of the struggling Jason Giambi to keep Giambi fresh.

Giambi, who came in with a majors-worst .192 batting average among regulars, went 0 for 2 with a walk and grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Dallas Braden (7-8) had a two-start winning streak snapped, allowing a career-high 10 hits in five innings.

“They’re a very talented club in terms of doing what the game dictates,” Braden said. “They play baseball. They don’t play gorilla ball.”

Braden received one or fewer runs of support for the 10th time in 19 starts.

He had already left the game when Holliday homered to end a 33-game, 121 at-bat homerless streak – the second-longest of his career. And it was a towering shot to center.

“I hit (it) as far as I can hit a ball,” Holliday said. “If that doesn’t go out, I’d probably quit.”

NOTES: Morales is 21 for 62 (.338) during the hitting streak. … Santana was 6-1 after his first seven decisions last year. … Since the start of the 2002 season, the Angels narrowly lead the A’s 71-70. … Scioscia had no hard feelings that his two All-Stars – Figgins and Fuentes – didn’t get in Tuesday’s game at St. Louis. “I totally understand,” he said. “The directive from the league is to manage the game to win it.” … The Angels are still undecided on their Monday starter. … LHP Brett Anderson is on schedule to start Sunday for Oakland after leaving his previous start last Sunday with lower back stiffness following four scoreless innings. He threw from 120 feet during a workout Wednesday at the Coliseum.