NEW YORK — Peter Angelos caught a lot of flak last July for his last-minute nixing of a trade that would have sent Baltimore slugger Miguel Tejada to the Angels for pitcher Ervin Santana and shortstop Erick Aybar.
Maybe the Orioles owner, who is often criticized for meddling into front-office affairs, knew what he was doing on this one.
Once a promising right-hander with a 95-mph fastball, a solid slider and 28 career victories before his 24th birthday, Santana has devolved into the Angels' most erratic and undependable starter, one who is in danger of losing his rotation spot to left-hander Joe Saunders after the All-Star break.
Santana delivered another dud Sunday, when he was rocked for nine runs and seven hits, two of them home runs, in three innings of the Angels' 12-0 loss to the New York Yankees, the second time this season Santana has been on the wrong end of a 12-0 score.
Hideki Matsui capped a four-run first inning with a three-run home run, and Robinson Cano hit a three-run shot in the fourth against Santana, who fell to 5-10 with a 5.97 earned-run average this season and 1-8 with an 8.59 ERA in 10 road starts. Santana has given up an American League-high 23 homers.
"It's frustrating," Manager Mike Scioscia said after the Angels' eighth loss in 12 games. "We have a lot of faith in Ervin. His arm is sound, he feels good, the ball is coming out of his hand better, and the results are obviously 180 degrees from what we need."
Santana has lost his last four decisions, and the pitcher who used to shine at home and struggle on the road is scuffling everywhere, which raises the question: How much longer can the Angels stick with Santana, especially with Saunders, who is 3-0 with a 2.97 ERA in five big league starts this season, ready at triple-A Salt Lake?
"Our confidence is still strong with Ervin, but the bottom line is we need production from our rotation, and that's something we'll look at," Scioscia said. "Ervin has the capabilities to be a real force in a championship-caliber rotation."
Consecutive singles by Melky Cabrera, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez led to the Yankees' first run, and Matsui crushed a fastball into the upper deck in right field for his 11th home run.
After Jorge Posada walked, Scioscia, not pitching coach Mike Butcher, came to the mound to remind Santana that "the game wasn't over in the first inning," Scioscia said. "He needed to keep getting after it ... and he did."
Santana retired the next eight batters, including strikeouts of Jeter and Matsui in the third inning, but he hit Posada with a pitch to open the fourth, Bobby Abreu singled, and Cano homered off the right-field foul pole.
Andy Phillips doubled, Johnny Damon walked, and Scioscia pulled Santana in favor of Chris Resop, who gave up a three-run home run to Rodriguez, his 30th.
Santana insists he is physically sound and is convinced he is not tipping his pitches. Scioscia said the energy and effort is there.
"He hurts -- nobody feels worse than Ervin," Scioscia said. "He's competing out there. He's just getting behind on some counts, and he's having a problem repeating some pitches and putting guys away."
Santana's confidence doesn't seem to be wavering.
"I'm normal," said Santana, who has a 10-19 career record and 7.05 ERA on the road. "The only thing I can control is throwing strikes. Everything is fine physically, I'm throwing hard. I just have to locate my pitches and keep the ball down."
Scioscia and Butcher have had lengthy meetings with Santana, and they've tinkered with his mechanics and pregame routine.
"We've tried everything," catcher Jose Molina said. "My feeling is, it's got to be him. He's the one who has to step up and do the job."
Right-hander Chien-Ming Wang did his Sunday, blanking the Angels on five hits in 6 1/3 innings to improve to 9-4 and sending them into the All-Star break with virtually no momentum.
"We've hit a rough stretch, there's no sugar-coating it," Scioscia said.