Mike Napoli is congratulated by a teammate after hitting a home run in the… (Michael Nelson / EPA )
The Angels want to believe they can catch the Texas Rangers, but nagging issues resurfaced Saturday to remind them of the difficulty.
Starting pitcher Ervin Santana surrendered his 21st, 22nd and 23rd home runs of the season in failing to make it through two innings.
And Mike Napoli, the slugging catcher the Angels traded away after the 2010 season for veteran outfielder Vernon Wells, hit two home runs to help the Rangers claim a 9-2 victory at Angel Stadium.
Santana (4-10) was battered for eight hits and six earned runs in 12/3 innings, his earned-run average rising to 6.00, as the Rangers (56-37) restored their six-game lead over the Angels (51-44) in the American League West, with a Sunday night series rubber game remaining.
Afterward, Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said Santana's immediate future in the team's starting rotation, with a day off Thursday, is "going to be discussed. There's no decision yet."
With Texas up 1-0, Napoli opened the second inning by driving an opposite-field homer to right and catcher Yorvit Torrealba followed with a homer over the center-field wall.
Boos rained on Santana when consecutive doubles followed, and then Adrian Beltre hammered his 18th homer for a 6-0 lead.
"I don't care what they do or say," said Santana, who lamented his inability to spot his fastball.
Asked if he believed he should remain in the rotation, Santana said, "Probably, yeah. All I can do is trust my stuff and believe I can do it. I missed by just a little, not too much. It's not a big deal" to fix.
Scioscia said the outing was "certainly not what we're looking for" from a starter. "We need five guys out there who'll give us a chance to win. . . . We're going to look at some things."
Santana has given up five or more earned runs in six of his last nine starts, and 21 total earned runs in his last four starts.
Making the day worse, the folly of the Napoli-Wells deal lingered, as Napoli homered again, against David Carpenter, to start the third inning — his 14th of the year. Wells, meanwhile, hasn't played for the Angels since May 20 because of a torn ligament in his right thumb, and isn't expected to play regularly when he does return from a rehabilitation assignment with triple-A Salt Lake.
Napoli has eight homers, 12 runs batted in and a .434 batting average in 14 games at Angel Stadium since being dealt.
"It definitely helps that I've caught these guys," said Napoli, who was Texas' designated hitter Saturday. "Every player has a place where they hit well. I'm comfortable playing here."
Down 7-0 at that point against Texas' high-profile Japanese League addition Yu Darvish (11-6), the Angels got a run-scoring single from leadoff hitter Mike Trout in the third.
Trout also walked in the fifth, stole his major league-leading 31st base and scored his major league-leading 69th run on Torii Hunter's single.
Trout has scored in 13 consecutive games, equaling the club record set by Jim Edmonds in 1995 and the AL rookie record set by the Washington Senators' Jake Powell in 1935 and the St. Louis Browns' Don Lenhardt in 1950.
Darvish otherwise cruised through seven innings, changing speeds and location effectively while striking out 11 — including Angels DH Kendrys Morales three times — and giving up only three hits.