Ervin Santana has fashioned a pretty good career on essentially two pitches, a fastball that sits in the area of 93 mph and a slider that usually has good side-to-side and sinking action.
It might be time for the Angels right-hander to learn a new trick. Or to master his third pitch, a changeup he only throws about 10% of the time.
Santana's command has regressed in recent weeks, and his stuff hasn't fooled many hitters this season, the latest evidence coming Monday night in an 8-6 loss to the Seattle Mariners that prevented the Angels from gaining ground in the American League West on the Texas Rangers, who lost to Oakland.
Santana, who threw a no-hitter against Cleveland in July, was rocked for seven runs and eight hits in 42/3 innings, walking six and striking out one to fall to 2-7 with a 5.33 earned-run average.
"Ervin is primarily a power pitcher who uses both sides of the plate with a breaking ball," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "He has to command the fastball and establish the fact that he can pitch inside, elevate, go down and away.
"When he's on, his fastball and breaking ball are as good as there is in our league ? but he hasn't unlocked that delivery that is going to let him repeat pitches, and he's not throwing the ball anywhere near his potential."
The Angels nearly took Santana off the hook with a rally in the eighth inning. Trailing, 8-4, Howie Kendrick reached when reliever Shawn Kelley's third strike got past catcher Miguel Olivo for a wild pitch. Erick Aybar walked and John Hester loaded the bases with an infield single.
Mike Trout, who had the first four-hit game of his career, hit a sacrifice fly to left field to make it 8-5, and Maicer Izturis hit a run-scoring double to right-center field to make it 8-6 and put runners on second base and third base.
Manager Eric Wedge summoned right-hander Tom Wilhelmsen to face Albert Pujols, who tapped a ball to the mound that resulted in Hester being tagged out in a rundown between third base and the plate.
Cleanup batter Mark Trumbo struck out for the fourth time and Wilhelmsen blanked the Angels in the ninth inning to help spoil Scioscia's 2,000th game as Angels manager.
On deck when the game ended was Kendrys Morales, who hit two solo home runs.
"We scratched and clawed and got back into it," Scioscia said. "We had the tying run at second base a couple times and couldn't get him in."
Angels catcher Bobby Wilson left the game in the second inning after being hit in the facemask by a foul tip. Scioscia said Wilson, who suffered a concussion in April 2010, was "a little woozy" and will be evaluated Tuesday.
Santana gave up his major league-leading 16th homer, a shot to center field by Kyle Seager in the first inning.
He walked three straight batters in the third to set up a two-run rally for the Mariners, who scored on John Jaso's single and Mike Carp's fielder's choice.
In the fifth, a two-out walk to Michael Saunders loaded the bases for No. 9 hitter Munenori Kawasaki, whose three-run double to left field gave Seattle a 7-2 lead. Kawasaki entered the game with a .158 average and two RBIs.
Santana, who began 2012 with 1,034 strikeouts and 414 walks, has walked 14 in 142/3 innings of his last three starts and 34 in 741/3 innings this season.
"My command was a little off today," Santana said. "I'm going to erase this outing and work on my location in the bullpen."