Santana will take the mound Thursday night when the Angels open a four-game road series against the Oakland Athletics.
Santana (1-5, 7.81 ERA) has failed to show the All-Star form of 2008 when he won a career-high tying 16 games. He’s had two stints on the disabled list this season, and has a 9.88 ERA in losing his last three starts.
“There’s concern,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “We’ve been talking about this for a while. I’m sure he’s healthy, because if he wasn’t, I don’t think he’d be able to throw the ball 94 miles an hour like he did. He’s hitting 90-94 and he has plenty to pitch with, if you can make some pitches.
“And that’s what his challenge is right now. He’s not getting the ball where he needs to and not being able to repeat pitches.”
Giving Santana a start against Oakland (37-49) could provide a boost to the right-hander. He is 9-1 with a 1.38 ERA in 13 career starts against the Athletics, including 4-0 with a 1.54 ERA in six starts at the Oakland Coliseum.
Cust and Giambi are Oakland’s top home run hitters with 14 and 11, respectively. But neither player is in the top 25 in the AL in that department, and are emblematic of an offense that ranks last in the league in batting at .246 and has produced 361 runs - the third-lowest mark in the AL.
Giambi is batting a career-worst .192 with 71 strikeouts, 50 hits and 40 RBIs. Cust is hitting .232 with a team-high 44 RBIs.
“If Jack and I can really get it going, we can put some runs on the board,” Giambi said. “We really haven’t swung the bats that well collectively as a team. Hopefully we can soon and really start taking off.”
While Oakland’s lineup features a bunch of struggling hitters, Los Angeles (49-37) will enter this series short-handed as sluggers Torii Hunter(notes) (strained adductor) and Vladimir Guerrero(notes) (strained knee) are on the disabled list. Those absences didn’t stop the Angels from scoring 29 runs last weekend in a three-game sweep of the New York Yankees.
Braden has been Oakland’s most consistent starter lately, allowing three earned runs or fewer in eight straight outings. He won his second straight start Saturday against Tampa Bay by yielding two runs over six innings in a 7-2 victory.
The left-hander was reinstated from the bereavement list before the game to pitch for the first time since July 1. He had spent most of the past week with his ailing grandmother.
Oakland has given Braden an average of 3.61 runs of support per game this season - the second-lowest mark in the AL.