For a long stretch of this season, hitters could see Ervin Santana's slider coming. But no one could see this coming.
Santana has morphed from the problem child of the Los Angeles Angels' rotation at midseason into the most dependable starter in a rotation that has been in a six-week downward spiral.
The erratic right-hander held the Red Sox scoreless for five innings Tuesday and allowed just two runs in 6 1/3 innings of the Angels' 5-3 victory. The Angels won just five of Santana's first 19 starts this season as he fell to 4-10 with a 6.00 ERA in late July.
In five starts since then, however, he is 3-0 with a 3.52 ERA and the Angels have won each game.
"We saw it in Ervin. We saw the potential he has," manager Mike Scioscia said. "He was just on a tough roll where he really didn't have a lot that he was going out there to compete with. But Ervin's done it before. We've seen him bounce back after some tough starts in seasons.
"The run that he had that was tough was a little longer than we'd seen. But we have a lot of confidence in him ... and he's shown (why) these last couple starts."
Scioscia attributes Santana's rebound to some "subtle adjustments that have had a huge impact," related primarily to "a release-point issue" that had flattened out his slider and robbed him of fastball command. Santana just shakes his head when asked what adjustments he made to turn around his season.
"I don't change anything," Santana said. "You guys know me since 2005. Same delivery. Same everything."