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Angels' Ervin Santana misses shutout but gets win

The right-hander, who had been struggling recently, throws 8 2/3 scoreless innings.

June 06, 2009|BILL SHAIKIN

DETROIT — The Angels were bloody good on Friday.

Ervin Santana could hardly breathe because of a bloody nose, and he very nearly threw a shutout. Chone Figgins gave up his body for the team, saved the game and had a bloody lip to show for it.

On a warm evening packed with blood, sweat and no tears, the Angels downed the Detroit Tigers, 2-1, and rediscovered a star in the process.

An All-Star, in fact.

Santana had staggered so much in his previous two starts that Manager Mike Scioscia openly discussed how much longer he might stick with him. Fastball velocity, breaking ball command, smooth delivery -- all awry in those previous starts, all present and accounted for Friday at Comerica Park.

"He could not have answered the questions with a more resounding yes than Ervin brought onto the field tonight," Scioscia said.

He brought a bloody nose onto the field too. The bleeding started during his warmup. He had to stuff cotton up his nostril, inhale through the cotton, replace the cotton every inning.

"That was very hard," Santana said. "I couldn't breathe very good."

One more out, and he would have had a shutout. You might have said he had recovered his confidence, except Santana said he never had lost it.

Santana, an All-Star last season, opened this season on the disabled list. He entered play Friday with a 9.50 earned-run average in four starts, and he had given up 15 runs in 6 1/3 innings over his previous two starts.

"I wasn't really worried about it," he said. "I knew I was just coming back from an injury. It's hard to be perfect."

Detroit starter Justin Verlander nearly was, shutting out the Angels on four singles through eight innings and throwing 80 of his 119 pitches for strikes. He threw too many pitches to come out for the ninth.

"Big, big, big, huge," Santana said. "Verlander was untouchable."

The Tigers turned to closer Fernando Rodney, with the game still scoreless. The Angels made him work, and hard.

Torii Hunter singled, on the sixth pitch. Kendry Morales singled, on the fifth pitch.

And then Juan Rivera fouled three pitches off, took ball one, fouled three more pitches off, took ball two. One of Rodney's pitches measured 98 mph.

Rivera said he kept telling himself: "I am not going to strike out here."

On the ninth pitch, he singled home Hunter.

Howie Kendrick's ground ball drove in Morales, and the Angels had a 2-0 lead.

Santana took a four-hit shutout into the ninth inning. He had made 90 pitches.

With one out, Josh Anderson tripled. Santana struck out Placido Polanco, but Miguel Cabrera walked, and Magglio Ordonez singled home Anderson.

The shutout was gone, and so was Santana, after 109 pitches. Closer Brian Fuentes earned the save, retiring Curtis Granderson on a foul pop.

The save did not come easily, though. Figgins raced across the third base line and toward the stands, caught the ball, then crashed into a knee-high ad panel and landed atop it, on his backside, with his lip split open.

"I just wanted to make sure I caught it," Figgins said. "Whatever happened after that happened."

Fuentes recorded his 15th save, tied for the most in the major leagues with Heath Bell of the San Diego Padres and one other National League closer.

Angels fans might have heard of him: Francisco Rodriguez of the New York Mets.


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