Ervin Santana took a perfect game into the seventh inning. (Lisa Blumenfeld / Getty…)
Perfect game, no.
Ervin Santana will settle for perfect timing.
The Angels right-hander who'd been rocked for the better part of a month rallied Saturday night with his finest effort of the season, retiring the first 20 Arizona Diamondbacks he faced en route to a one-hitter and 2-0 Angels victory.
With two outs in the seventh, Arizona's No. 3 hitter Justin Upton grounded the first pitch he saw from Santana into center field between second base and shortstop Erick Aybar for a clean single.
"Fastball, down and away," Santana said. "It was a good pitch."
A standing ovation by the announced 42,483 in attendance followed, a roar for an outing that Santana sorely needed.
Upton and pinch-hitter Miguel Montero, who drew a ninth-inning walk, were the only Diamondbacks to reach base.
Santana, who pitched a no-hitter last July in Cleveland, joined Nolan Ryan as the only Angels with a no-hitter and one-hitter.
Santana (4-7) started the night with just one win in five starts since May 15 — a 10-8 victory Sunday in Colorado in which he gave up nine hits and seven earned runs in 52/3 innings.
Santana had surrendered a combined 23 hits, 19 runs, eight walks and five homers in his three most recent outings.
With ace Jered Weaver possibly returning to the rotation this week, a pregame question was asked of Angels Manager Mike Scioscia about Santana's ability to remain in the rotation.
"There are some decisions coming up, but not all the facts are in," Scioscia said.
After the shutout, Scioscia said he's never considered demoting Santana, praising the pitcher's command of the fastball.
"He was on the money," Scioscia said. "He had a great game plan, committed to it. . . . When Ervin's at his best, he can paint" the fastball on the outside of the plate, "and can run in at the hands."
Santana said his fastball command developed in recent bullpen sessions, and could springboard him to success in upcoming starts. He said a visit by his parents from the Dominican Republic this week also inspired.
"Of course you keep the mind positive after an outing like that," Santana said.
Santana was backed with run support immediately, when cleanup hitter Mark Trumbo hammered a two-run home run off ex-Angel Joe Saunders with two outs in the first inning.
Trumbo's 15th homer of the season — his ninth in 19 games — cleared the left-field fence.
The game also featured a three-hit night by Howie Kendrick, who collected his first extra-base hits since May 9, a double in the first and a leadoff double in the sixth, an inning Saunders (4-5) escaped by striking out John Hester and getting Mike Trout to fly to right.
That shifted the focus back to Santana, after retiring the first 20 Diamondbacks with four strikeouts, eight fly balls to the outfield and six groundouts.