Angels-Indians Preview

The Associated Press

Ervin Santana threw a no-hitter the last time he faced the Cleveland Indians. It's safe to say, however, expectations are lower for this meeting.

Struggling to keep the ball in the park, Santana will try for the fifth time to notch his first win Sunday when he and the Los Angeles Angels close a three-game set against the Indians.

Santana's first win in 11 career starts against Cleveland was a memorable one. The right-hander struck out 10 and walked one in a 3-1 victory July 27 - the first solo no-hitter by the Angels since Mike Witt in 1984.

Santana (0-4, 7.23 ERA) would probably settle for a win this time. His early struggles continued Tuesday when he allowed four homers in five innings of a 5-0 loss to Tampa Bay to become the first four-game loser in the AL.

He's surrendered 10 homers in 23 2-3 innings, becoming the only Angels player other than Don Sutton in 1986 to give up multiple homers in his first four starts.

"Just keep pitching, fix it in the bullpen," said Santana, who has allowed four or more runs in each of his four starts. "That's how you get better and that's what I'm going to do. Locate my fastball, that's it."

While Santana has been woeful, the bigger story for the Angels (7-14) in the first month of the season has been their offensive struggles. Trying to boost their production at the plate, Los Angeles released Bobby Abreu and promoted rookie Mike Trout on Friday.

Trout went hitless in four at-bats Saturday, but the Angels won 2-1. Dan Haren went eight innings and Torii Hunter gave Los Angeles a 2-0 lead with a solo homer in the fourth.

The win snapped the Angels' five-game losing streak, but it didn't assuage many concerns about the effort at the plate. Los Angeles had five hits and struck out 10 times.

Albert Pujols' home run drought continued as he went 1 for 4 with a strikeout. He hasn't hit a home run in an Angels uniform - a streak of 21 games and 84 at-bats - and has not connected in a regular season game since Sept. 22.

"I think he's going to hit a home run sometime,'' manager Mike Scioscia said. "If it reaches something like 300 at-bats, then we'll have a different conversation.''

Pujols is not the only one to blame as the Angels have scored 11 runs and hit .180 over the last six games.

Cleveland (10-9), which was 6-0 in one-run games prior to the loss, is in the midst of its own offensive slump, scoring eight runs over the last four games. The Indians haven't homered in 10 games - a streak of 93 innings and 334 at-bats - their longest drought in nearly 30 years.

Cleveland went 14 games without a homer from April 10-22, 1983.

"We're going to hit another one, believe me," manager Manny Acta said. "When you have such a long season, everything comes in cycles."

Looking to bounce back, the Indians will hand the ball to Derek Lowe (3-1, 3.00).

The veteran right-hander allowed one run and struck out five in six innings of a 4-3 win over Kansas City on Tuesday.

Lowe is 4-8 with a 4.01 ERA as a starter against the Angels, losing his last three starts. He allowed three runs and walked five in six innings of a 4-1 loss last May.

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