One-hit gem saves Santana's starting spot
If Ervin Santana felt concern about losing his job in the Angels' starting rotation, he never let on. He had things under control, he said. He was fine.
His pitching lines said otherwise. Santana struggled to control his fastball, and he was giving up runs in bunches: 20 earned runs in 20 1/3 innings over four starts going into Saturday night's start against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Angels right-hander is nothing if not baffling. Out of nowhere, he pitched a one-hitter against the Diamondbacks in a 2-0 victory at Angel Stadium. He retired the first 20 batters of the game, took a perfect game into the seventh and allowed just two base runners.
How to explain the turnabout? It could have been that Santana felt his starting job was in jeopardy. With ace Jered Weaver (strained lower back) almost ready to come off the disabled list and rookie Garrett Richards having thrown well in one of his two starts, the possibility of sending Santana to the bullpen to sort out his troubles had to be under consideration by manager Mike Scioscia.
Scioscia resisted any suggestion of using Santana in relief, at least in the short term, but it would've had to have been tempting if he struggled again Saturday. Now, any idea of using him in relief can be trashed.
After the game, Santana told FOX Sports West that his success was simply the result of having faith in himself.
"I just trusted my stuff," he said, "and threw strikes."
It was that easy. Santana gave up several deep fly-ball outs, but he's a fly ball pitcher. His perfect game was ended by Justin Upton's seventh-inning two-out ground single through the middle, but Santana hardly seemed dejected when it happened. In fact, he bore down on the next batter, Paul Goldschmidt, and retired him on a fly ball to center.
Santana has no-hit stuff, which he proved last season when he threw a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians on July 27. He and Nolan Ryan are the only Angels to toss a no-hitter and a one-hitter in their careers, and that's nice company.
All he needs to do now is find the consistency to locate his fastball.
Santana started the season 0-6 and served up 10 home runs in his first four starts. But he was also victimized by a lack of support: His offense was held scoreless in five of his starts in a row, from April 13 to May 4.
Santana's best stretch might have come in three starts in mid-May when he gave up four earned runs in 16 innings and beat the Minnesota Twins and Oakland A's.
No one expects him to throw a one-hitter in his next start, but it's reasonable to assume he won't have another perplexing outing like he's had so often this season.
He saved his job as a starter, that's for sure. So whatever he did to the D-Backs should serve as a blueprint for the remainder of his season.