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Ervin Santana still has some magic in his arm

His fastball isn't the same, but he still dominates A's in a 6-2 victory.

July 17, 2009|BILL SHAIKIN

OAKLAND — Don't worry about the radar gun. Don't look to the scoreboard for your velocity. Just throw strikes.

Easier said than done.

Ervin Santana is back, but his fastball is not. He admits to peeking over his shoulder for that radar reading.

"All the time," he said with a sheepish grin.

So the most encouraging aspect of the Angels' 6-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Thursday might be this: Santana dominated, without last year's fastball. He scattered three hits over eight innings, winning his first game in six weeks.

"He has plenty on his fastball," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "He just has to locate it."

Kendry Morales hit a home run and Erick Aybar and Mike Napoli had three hits apiece as the Angels piled up six runs in the first four innings and moved two games ahead of the Texas Rangers in the American League West.

Brian Fuentes cleaned up Justin Speier's bases-loaded, none-out mess in the ninth inning to earn his 27th save, the most in the major leagues.

Fuentes has not given up a run since May 30. He has converted 14 consecutive save opportunities in that time.

But the undisputed star of the night was Santana, who had one victory in eight starts this season, with an earned-run average approaching 8.00.

He has been on the disabled list twice this season, and he is trying to pitch after rehabilitating a partially torn ligament in his right elbow. The velocity of his fastball on Thursday was no better than in his last few starts -- mostly between 90-92 mph, with a high of 94 mph -- but the command of his fastball was much better.

"His stuff isn't quite the same as it was last year," Scioscia said. "But he has plenty to win -- not just to compete."

Santana, relying heavily on his slider in the early innings, retired 11 consecutive batters at one point. He carried a one-hitter into the sixth inning and a shutout into the seventh, when Matt Holliday hit a home run.

Morales delivered his first home run from the right side this season, extending his hitting streak to 16 games in the process.

In 64 at-bats against left-handers this season, Morales is hitting .219 with one home run. In 239 at-bats against right-handers, he is hitting .301 with 15 home runs.

The Angels have Brandon Wood and Robb Quinlan available to play first base against left-handers, but Scioscia said Morales remains Plan A against all comers.

"We have the utmost confidence that, when all is said and done, this guy will be just as dangerous from the right side as he is from the left side," Scioscia said.

Santana had a smile on his face after the game, an expression he has seldom featured this season. The coaches could tell him all they wanted about winning with a diminished velocity, but the results told him otherwise.

"My first few starts, I was like, 'What's going on?' " Santana said. "It was 85, 81, 87."

Is that all right?

"Well, maybe for a changeup," Santana said.

And so Santana had beaten his favorite targets once again. He's 10-1 with a 1.35 ERA against the A's.

"That's neither here nor there," Scioscia said. "When he's pitching well, Ervin will beat a lot of clubs."


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