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Angels gamble and hit the jackpot against Rangers

Ervin Santana goes seven innings on three days' rest in an 8-4 victory over Texas. Five Angels hit solo homers and AL West deficit is cut to two games.

August 27, 2011|By Kevin Baxter
  • Angels starting pitcher Ervin Santana went seven innings against the Rangers on Saturday afternoon after three days' rest.
Angels starting pitcher Ervin Santana went seven innings against the Rangers… (Rick Yeatts / Getty Images )

Reporting from Arlington, Texas -- Less than two weeks ago the Angels had two rookies in their rotation, a regular catcher batting .177, an All-Star second baseman who wasn't playing every day and baseball's best prospect buried in the minor leagues.

And they were five games out of first place and falling fast.

None of those things was true when the team woke up Sunday morning — which probably goes a long toward explaining why the Angels have won seven of their last eight games, cutting Texas' lead in the American League West to two games with 30 to play.

In his team's latest win Saturday, an 8-4 victory over the Rangers, Manager Mike Scioscia gambled in a number of ways — then watched every bet pay off big:

On the mound he bypassed the bottom of his rotation and gave the ball to Ervin Santana on short rest for the first time in his career. Santana responded with seven strong innings in which he scattered four hits.

Behind the plate he started Bobby Wilson for the 12th time in 19 games and Wilson not only guided Santana to his seventh win in eight decisions, but also hit his first homer of the season.

At second base was Howie Kendrick, who has not missed a game in 13 days, his longest stretch since the All-Star break. He homered and scored twice.

And in the outfield Mike Trout started for the fourth time since his recall from the minors and also homered. That gave him hits in five of his six major league games this month. The Angels have won five of those games.

"We're using our whole roster," Scioscia said. "There's no doubt that on the offensive side we're getting a little bit deeper. We're using some guys that maybe haven't played as much.

"We're doing some things on the offensive side that maybe we've been waiting for. And it's a good time for it."

Vernon Wells and Peter Bourjos also homered for the Angels, who got solo homers from five players for the first time since 1985. Wells, recently dropped to sixth in the lineup, has a six-game hitting streak and is nine for his last 17.

But much of the focus Saturday was on Santana, who started on three days' rest despite having thrown more pitches than anyone else in baseball this month. Plus he had the heat to contend with and that has never been kind to Santana. The game-time temperature was 104 degrees and the right-hander was 9-12 with a 7.10 ERA in 27 starts in temperatures of 85 degrees or higher.

"There's always a first time for everything," he said. "It was hot. But I didn't focus on that at all. I just focused on doing my best."

Santana (10-9) was economical, if not sharp, setting the first nine batters down in order. A hit batter and a walk led to two runs in the fourth and David Murphy reached him for a two-run homer in the fifth, but Santana gave up only one other hit, needing 95 pitches to get through the seventh.

And get the Angels back to within two games of the lead.

"It's still too early to focus on how many games you're up or back or what's going on," Scioscia said. "We have a lot of baseball left after this series.

"It's important for us to win games. But there's a long road ahead of us."

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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