Ervin Santana pitched seven innings in Saturday's 6-2 loss to Baltimore… (Patrick Smith / Getty Images )
Reporting from Baltimore — The Angels have been saying all season that they'll only go as far as their starting pitchers can carry them.
If that's true, then they probably won't go much further.
On Saturday, the Baltimore Orioles pounded right-hander Ervin Santana for two home runs in a five-run first inning, then cruised to a 6-2 win. The loss, the Angels' fourth in six games, combined with Texas' 7-6 win in Seattle, extended the Rangers' lead in the American League West to 4½ games with 10 days left in the season.
Yet, that may not be the biggest problem the Angels face. Of more concern is the fact that their top three starters — Santana, Jered Weaver and Dan Haren, who have kept them in the playoff chase — may be coming up lame just as the finish line comes into sight.
"Those guys are the guys that have us even talking about the possibility of making the playoffs," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "We feel they're strong enough to give us the best opportunity to get there."
By pitching seven innings Saturday, Santana matched his career high of 2221/3 innings with two starts left. Weaver, who will start on three days' rest Sunday, is only three innings shy of his career high of 2241/3. And Haren, who gave up seven runs in five-plus innings Friday, needs only seven innings to match his season high of 2291/3.
It's the first time the Angels have had three pitchers throw at least 221 innings in a season since Mark Langston, Chuck Finley and Jim Abbott did it two decades ago. That team finished at .500
"We've been ridden hard all season. And I'm sure if you ask the other guys, we wouldn't want it any other way," Haren said. "We all take pride in a certain amount of innings. There's goals that everyone sets at the beginning of the year. And making all your starts and innings are definitely one of them."
So is making the postseason, but that won't happen if the Angels' big three, who are scheduled to make seven of the team's final 11 starts, don't find a second wind soon.
Through mid-August, the right-handers were a combined 35-19 with a 2.59 earned-run average. Since then they're 8-9 with an ERA nearly two runs per game higher.
Santana was off from the start Saturday, walking leadoff hitter Matt Angle on four pitches then giving up a two-run home run to the next batter, J.J. Hardy. After a single and a walk, Mark Reynolds hit a three-run homer.
And with the Angels managing only three hits against Zach Britton in seven innings, that was pretty much the game.
The start was delayed 14 minutes after plate umpire Brian O'Nora was hit on the right ankle by one of Britton's warm-ups and as a result, Santana wound up spending half an hour on a chilly Angels bench. And while Santana insisted that was no excuse, it was probably a factor. Santana settled down after the first, giving up only one hit over his final six innings.
That was too little too late for a team that is running out of time, and maybe out of pitching.
"Every time you don't get it done, obviously it's making that climb a little tougher," Scioscia said. "We know we've got to pick up some ground."