Angels 5, Athletics 2

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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—Ervin Santana pitched another solid game for the Los Angeles Angels. The next significant step for the rookie is to put together two good outings in a row.

Santana allowed two runs and four hits over seven innings Monday night in a 5-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics.

The win continued a mystifying pattern for the tall right-hander, who has alternated between solid and brutal.

“I have to be consistent,” Santana said. “I try to do good things every game. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes not.”

A few hours before the game, Santana found at his locker a glass-enclosed frame containing a few mementos from the five-hit shutout he pitched against the White Sox on May 23 for his first major league victory—including the official batting order slips from both teams and the large lineup card that was attached to the dugout wall that night.

But in the six starts that followed, Santana’s runs allowed were 1, 7, 1, 7, 1 and 5.

“I don’t think it’s anything unusual to see a young pitcher struggle a little bit, then come back and have a good game,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “It’s all part of a pitcher developing and learning, and he’s doing that. He’s using that experience and he’s going to get better.”

Facing the Athletics for the first time, Santana struck out six and walked three. He threw a lot more breaking balls than the Athletics’ anticipated.

“Tonight he brought his other pitches into the game a little earlier, and that certainly helped him to set a tone for what he needed to do,” Scioscia said. “Bengie Molina did an incredible job with him in some situations, where he brought some off-count breaking pitches into it that went for strikes and kept them off-balance. And he kept his fastball down all night. That’s what he’d going to have to do to get some consistency.”

Orlando Cabrera’s two-run single capped a four-run sixth inning and Vladimir Guerrero also had two RBIs for the Angels, who increased their AL West lead to eight games over second-place Texas and 8 1/2 games over third-place Oakland.

Scot Shields pitched a scoreless eighth and Francisco Rodriguez struck out three for his 21st save in 23 attempts.

Kirk Saarloos (5-6), pitching with nine days’ rest because of the All-Star break, allowed five runs and eight hits in 5 2-3 innings. He had won four of his previous five decisions.

Oakland got only one runner past second base until the sixth, when Scott Hatteberg gave the A’s a 2-1 lead with a two-run double into the right-field corner after walks to Mark Kotsay and Eric Chavez. But the Angels responded with four runs in the bottom half.

“Hatteberg had a big hit, but we needed to get a shutdown inning and get back and hit,” manager Ken Macha said. “That’s what we had been getting.”

Chone Figgins drew a leadoff walk, stole second and scored the tying run when Guerrero bounced into a force play. Jeff DaVanon put the Angels ahead to stay with a bases-loaded infield single as Saarloos tried in vain to make a barehanded play on the high chopper. Cabrera followed with another two-out hit, a single to center that scored Garret Anderson and Steve Finley.

“Saarloos once again kept us in the ballgame,” Macha said. “He gave us five great innings and we were right there. He made a good pitch on Guerrero, but we couldn’t turn two. Then it comes down to two outs with a tie game, we get 0-2 on DaVanon and he bounces a ball off home plate. Another foot out in front and it’s probably just a little dribbler back to the pitcher.”

Figgins led off the Angels’ first with a single, stole second and scored on Guerrero’s sacrifice fly. Figgins need one stolen base to become the first Angels player with consecutive seasons of 30 or more steals since Chad Curtis and Luis Polonia in 1993.

“Their leadoff guy got on twice and started the innings for them,” Macha said. “

Oakland center fielder Mark Kotsay was charged with two throwing errors in the sixth on good throws, one to third base that deflected off Guerrero’s left arm, and one to the plate that skipped past catcher Jason Kendall. Those were the first errors this season for Kotsay, who had played errorless ball in 91 consecutive games since Sept. 30.

“Those were tough errors,” Macha said. “I don’t know how many errors he had last year, but they were basically the same way—on great throws.”

Notes

The Athletics had won their previous eight series openers, and their previous 10 against AL teams dating to a 4-1 loss at Cleveland on May 27. … Angels 3B Dallas McPherson took infield drills for the first time since going on the DL with inflammation in his left hip on July 8, but it will be at least a couple more days before he gets to swing a bat.

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