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Angels' Ervin Santana unable to keep magic going

Pitcher's notable run is disrupted as Rangers' C.J. Wilson turns in a brilliant effort.

August 17, 2011|By Kevin Baxter
  • Angels first baseman Mark Trumbo watches pitcher Ervin Santana react to giving up a two-run single with bases loaded to Rangers' Ian Kinsler in the eighth inning to break a 2-2 tie Wednesday night.
Angels first baseman Mark Trumbo watches pitcher Ervin Santana react to… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

Ervin Santana shuffled into the Angels' clubhouse shortly after 4 p.m. wearing an oversized gray T-shirt, blue jeans with patches on both legs and a wry smile.

It's a wardrobe that really hasn't changed much over the last month. But, until Wednesday, everything else about Ervin Santana had.

The Angels pitcher entered the day riding a historic run, having gone 5-0 with a 1.09 earned-run average since the All-Star break. He had allowed less than a baserunner an inning, opponents were hitting just .202 against him and he followed his no-hitter in Cleveland last month by going at least eight innings and giving up fewer than two runs in each of his next three games.

Since 1919, the only other pitcher to put together a four-start streak like that was Sandy Koufax.

But C.J. Wilson and the Texas Rangers apparently didn't get the memo. Because Wilson outdueled the Angels ace for seven innings Wednesday night, helping the Rangers to a 4-3 win that extended their division lead to seven games while extending the Angels' losing streak to five.

Santana wasn't so much bad as he was unlucky, with the Rangers' first run scoring after a two-base throwing error in the fifth inning and their last two coming on Ian Kinsler's two-out, two-strike, broken-bat single in the eighth.

Wilson, on the other hand, was simply brilliant. After giving up two runs — one earned — in the first inning, he held the Angels scoreless on three hits over the next six, winning for just the second time in a month.

The other win, not coincidentally, also came in California, against the Oakland Athletics.

"It's always fun pitching here because there's always a huge posse," said the Newport Beach native, who had more than a dozen friends and family members cheering him on.

Wilson, who once pitched at Santa Ana College, is beginning to right himself after a momentary dry spell, just as Santana did.

Six weeks ago the Angels ace was streaking in the wrong direction, having gone winless in six consecutive starts. His ERA was over 4.00 and he had pitched into the ninth inning just once in 17 games.

Then he reeled off eight consecutive starts without a loss, averaging eight innings an outing and posting a 1.41 ERA. In the last three of those starts, he followed an Angels loss with a victory.

That helped keep the Angels' playoff hopes alive, because while Santana was dealing, the rest of the Angels rotation was reeling. Jered Weaver gave up 11 earned runs in dropping his last two decisions and Dan Haren has won just twice in seven starts since the All-Star break.

Explaining what Santana (9-9) has done is a lot easier than explaining how he has done it.

"He's more committed to every pitch," catcher Bobby Wilson says.

Pitching coach Mike Butcher credits the success of Santana — whose nickname, Magic, is stitched down the side of his glove — to a little sleight of hand.

"He's hiding the ball a lot more than he was," Butcher says.

The spell was broken Wednesday, though, when Kinsler volleyed Santana's 129th pitch — a career high — into shallow left field, giving Wilson, who drives a race car in the off-season, his 12th win of the season.

"Usually when you're going the fastest is when you're the most relaxed," he said.

And it seems both he and the Rangers have the pedal to the metal now.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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