It's almost like clockwork when the pieces fall into place. The starting pitcher provides six or seven strong innings, hands the ball to a bullpen that goes into lock-down mode, and soon the Angels are exchanging high-fives at game's end.
It has been the winning formula the Angels have relied on most since their 2002 championship, and it was on display again Monday night when the Angels beat the Detroit Tigers, 3-0, at Angel Stadium to extend their win streak to three and end the Tigers' streak at five.
Ervin Santana overcame some control problems to throw six shutout innings, giving up five hits and striking out 10, a career high, and designated hitter Tim Salmon provided a cushion, smacking a solo home run off longtime nemesis Kenny Rogers in the second inning and a run-scoring single in the sixth.
Then the Angel bullpen went to work: Brendan Donnelly threw a hitless seventh, Scot Shields tossed a scoreless eighth and Francisco Rodriguez struck out the side on 11 pitches in the ninth for his eighth save.
It was Donnelly's second scoreless inning in three games, while Shields, who has an 0.71 earned run average in 10 games, and Rodriguez, who has lowered his ERA from 6.75 to 3.86 in his last four appearances, have thrown in three straight games.
"All we ask is for the starters to go five or six innings, because with the bullpen we have, we can take care of the rest," Rodriguez said. "It's been that way for a few years. We've had one of the best bullpens in the league. And lately, Donnelly has been terrific and Shields has been outstanding."
Santana's linescore looked outstanding, and it continued a strong run by Angel starting pitchers, who have combined to go 5-2 with a 3.30 ERA in the last 10 games, giving up 22 runs in 60 innings.
But it wasn't as seamless as it appeared -- all those strikeouts required a lot of pitches, and there were no breeze-through innings for Santana, who needed 111 pitches to get through his six innings.
The Tigers mounted only two scoring threats, but Santana got Magglio Ordonez to fly out with the bases loaded to end the third and struck out Craig Monroe and got Marcus Thames to fly to center with a runner on third to end the fourth.
"Ervin was a little shy on command, but when he had to make pitches, he did," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "He had to work for every out. He got behind, then used his pitches to get back into counts and put guys away."
Salmon entered with a .215 career average (17 for 79) against Rogers, but five of those hits against the 41-year-old left-hander were home runs. Home run No. 6 came in the second inning Monday, when Salmon drove his third homer of the season -- and first in Angel Stadium since April 14, 2004 -- over the wall in left field for a 1-0 lead.
Rogers then retired 13 of the next 15 batters before Garret Anderson grounded a two-out double down the right-field line, his second double of the game. Vladimir Guerrero walked, and Salmon stroked an RBI single to left for a 2-0 lead.
"He's as tough as he was 10 years ago," Salmon said of Rogers. "He gives you a lot of looks, like Jamie Moyer with the off-speed stuff. You just hunt a zone and react. I got it right a couple of times."
The Angels got another run in the eighth when Chone Figgins led off with a double past first baseman Chris Shelton, took third when Ordonez misplayed the ball for an error in right and scored on Orlando Cabrera's sacrifice fly to deep center.