Santana outpitched the three-time All-Star with six sharp innings and fanned 10, leading the Los Angeles Angels to a 3-0 victory over Detroit on Monday night and ending the Tigers’ five-game winning streak.
“I’m happy with my performance because every pitch was working good and I kept the ball down,” Santana said. “I had great command with my fastball, changeup and slider.”
Santana (2-0) threw 111 pitches, combining with three relievers on the Angels’ first shutout of the season. He scattered five hits and escaped a bases-loaded jam in the third. The 23-year-old right-hander has the assortment of pitches and the velocity to become a consistent strikeout pitcher.
“I’m trying to be,” Santana said. “But you never know, because a lot of good hitters don’t strike out too much. So you’re not able to control that.”
Santana fanned six of his first nine batters—including Placido Polanco, who was the toughest player in the majors to strike out last season and had fanned only once in 71 at-bats through Detroit’s first 19 games.
“Ervin had to really work for every out,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He got on a run where he was behind a lot of guys, but he used his pitches to get back into counts and put some guys away. He was getting a little fatigued and wasn’t as crisp as we know he can be, but for him to shut down a hot team like the Tigers for six innings is important.”
Tim Salmon led the offense with a home run and an RBI single. Francisco Rodriguez followed Brendan Donnelly and Scot Shields out of the bullpen and struck out all three batters in the ninth for his eighth save in nine attempts.
“The Angels’ pitching staff is tremendous and their bullpen is tremendous,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “I don’t think most people are going to wear this pitching staff out. I mean, Shields hasn’t given up a hit to a left-handed hitter all year. So they’ve got all the ingredients. That’s why they go to the postseason.”
After settling for a pair of no-decisions at Baltimore and Minnesota, Santana was back in his comfort zone. He is 11-3 lifetime at Angel Stadium with a 2.90 ERA, compared to 3-5 with a 6.90 ERA on the road.
“I think he’s comfortable here,” Scioscia said. “I know last hear he struggled and gave up some big numbers on the road early, and maybe that’s skewed some of his stats. But eventually, it’s not going to matter where this guy pitches. He’s got the makeup and ability to pitch in any environment and make his pitches.”
Rogers (3-2) allowed two runs and four hits in seven innings, striking out three and walking three. The 41-year-old left-hander, pitching for his sixth big league team, is 16-15 lifetime against the Angels with a 4.17 ERA.
“That’s a good lineup over there,” said Rogers, who fell behind on Salmon’s leadoff homer in the second. “At 1-0, you really don’t think a solo shot is going to beat you. But it was enough tonight. All four of their pitchers pitched great, kept us down and never gave us any air to get any runs.”
Santana retired his first two batters in the third before walking Curtis Granderson for the second time. Polanco singled and Ivan Rodriguez was hit by a pitch, but Magglio Ordonez flied out to right on a two-seam fastball away and stranded all three runners. Detroit left another runner at third one inning later when Craig Monroe struck out and Marcus Thames flied out.
“Santana threw a lot of strikes and pitched a good game,” Ordonez said. “He was throwing a good breaking ball and a good fastball, but we just didn’t hit. That’s the bottom line. We had chances, but we didn’t take advantage of them.”
Salmon’s homer was his sixth against Rogers, who pitched a perfect game against the Angels in July 1994 for the Texas Rangers. Salmon drove in the second run in the sixth after a two-out double by Garret Anderson and a walk to Vladimir Guerrero.
Rogers’ only double-digit strikeout games were on July 8, 1993, at Toronto (10), and Sept. 1, 1999, against Pittsburgh (10). … Chuck Hernandez, in his first season as Detroit’s pitching coach, spent five seasons as the Angels’ pitching coach during the 1990s. … Polanco struck out once every 22.04 plate appearances last year. His average in each of the previous four seasons was one strikeout for every 14-plus at-bats. … Salmon’s homer was his first in Anaheim since April 14, 2004, against Seattle’s Freddy Garcia. … The Tigers have not won six in a row since June 2004. … Rogers, a four-time Gold Glove winner, had two putouts and five assists.