Santana once again tries to win his eighth straight decision as the Angels continue their three-game series against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Tropicana Field.
Santana (11-3, 4.03 ERA) has not lost since May 31 to Minnesota, but struggled with his control in Los Angeles 9-4 loss Thursday to Kansas City. The 23-year-old right-hander allowed four runs, five hits and a career-high eight walks in just 4 1-3 innings but did not factor in the decision. He threw 103 pitches, only 46 for strikes, and two wild pitches.
“He just had a problem getting the ball into good zones and after a while getting the ball over the plate,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “That was probably the most erratic any of us have seen him. He’s got to turn the page, too. It’s a tough start for him.”
Santana went 7-0 with a 2.96 ERA in eight starts from June 6-July 15 before Thursday’s poor outing. The last Angels pitcher to win eight straight decisions in one season was Jarrod Washburn from May 13-July 24, 2001. Now with Seattle, Washburn was 11-10 with a 3.77 ERA that season with Los Angeles.
Santana has dominated the Devil Rays (41-59) this year, allowing three runs and six hits over 14 innings in two wins. He is 2-1 with a 5.09 ERA in three career starts against them, and his next win will match the 12 he recorded last season as a rookie.
Los Angeles (51-48) won its third straight game with an 8-4 victory in the series opener, and moved into a tie with Oakland for first place in the AL West for the first time since being tied with Texas on April 29 at 12-12.
Juan Rivera went 2-for 4 and hit his 15th homer, helping the Angels improve to 16-4 in July.
“He’s given us a big lift, to say the least,” Scioscia said of Rivera, who’s batting .351 (26-for-74) with nine home runs and 17 RBIs in 20 games this month.
Adam Kennedy had a double and three RBIs, and has six RBIs during a season-high 10-game hitting streak.
While Santana is enjoying the longest winning streak of his career, Shields looks to avoid losing his fifth straight decision.
The 24-year-old rookie right-hander won the first four decisions of his major league career, but hasn’t won since June 21. Shields was reached for five runs and eight hits in a career-low 4 1-3 innings of a 6-4 loss Thursday to Minnesota.
Shields has an 8.89 ERA in five starts during his losing streak, compared to a 3.00 ERA in the five outings during his unbeaten run.
The Devil Rays have lost 12 of their last 15 games, and a franchise-record six straight to the Angels.
“I’m not disappointed in anything. Coming into a season like this, there’s going to be a lot of learning,” said Joe Maddon of his first season managing Tampa Bay. “You’re seeing some young players who lack a lot of experience. Sometimes they’re pretty good, sometimes not as good. That’s the roller coaster ride we’re on.”