San­tana gives Rangers his blank look again

Los Angeles Times - - Baseball - Mike DiGio­vanna mike.digio­vanna@latimes.com

This one didn’t carry the same weight for the An­gels as his last shutout, a seven-hit­ter to beat Texas last Sept. 28 in Ana­heim. That gem clinched the 2009 Amer­i­can League West cham­pi­onship for his club.

But it had plenty of in­di­vid­ual sig­nif­i­cance for Ervin San­tana, whose fifth ca­reer shutout, a five-hit mas­ter­piece in a 2-0 win over the Rangers in An­gel Sta­dium on Tues­day night, gave the 27-year-old righthander his ca­reer-best 17th vic­tory of the sea­son.

“He’s throw­ing the ball as well as we’ve ever seen him, and we’ve given him enough sup­port to get that many wins,” Man­ager Mike Scios­cia said of San­tana, who is 17-9 with a 3.77 earned-run av­er­age. “He shut down a lineup with power all the way through it.”

San­tana had good life on his fast­ball, which hit 95 mph on a sev­en­thin­ning strike­out of Chris Davis, and ef­fec­tively mixed his break­ing ball and changeup. Of his 122 pitches, 80 were strikes.

The fact that Scios­cia sent him out for the ninth with a pitch count of 110 is a tes­ta­ment to San­tana’s me­chan­ics and how far he’s come from his in­jury-marred 2009 sea­son, when San­tana suf­fered an el­bow sprain in spring train­ing and went 8-8 with a 5.03 ERA.

“Ervin had a set­back in spring train­ing and was pitch­ing [last sea­son] with ve­loc­ity that wasn’t as crisp as it is now,” Scios­cia said. “This year, he’s match­ing ve­loc­ity with com­mand, and he has that great break­ing ball he can throw when he needs it.”

The win, in a crisp 2 hours12 min­utes, helped the An­gels, who have won nine of 12 games, move to within a game of .500 and to within 8½ games of Texas with 11 games left, five against the Rangers.

Texas, which got a strong start from Colby Lewis (seven in­nings, two runs, four hits, 10 strike­outs), is seven games ahead of sec­ond-place Oak­land with a magic num­ber of six.

The An­gels took a 1-0 lead in the sec­ond when Hank Conger tripled off the right-cen­ter-field wall and scored on Kevin Frand­sen’s ground­out to sec­ond.

The An­gels made it 2-0 in the fourth when Hideki Mat­sui dou­bled to right, took third on Mike Napoli’s fly to right and scored when Rangers first base­man Mitch More­land threw wild past the plate on Conger’s fielder’s-choice grounder.

Catch­ing on

It’s an ex­tremely small sam­ple size, but the An­gels couldn’t be hap­pier with how Conger, the for­mer Hunt­ing­ton Beach High star, has han­dled him­self be­hind the plate this month.

Conger has caught four games for the An­gels, and two have been shutouts, Tues­day night’s win over Texas and a 7-0 win over Cleve­land on Sept. 15, in which Jered Weaver al­lowed one hit in seven in­nings.

The An­gels are 4-0 in the games Conger has started and have al­lowed only six runs in 36 in­nings for a 1.50 ERA.

“This is the first time I’ve caught all these guys, so I’m try­ing to watch alot of video, pitch to their strengths and not force any­thing,” Conger said. “That’s the key. . . . All the pitch­ers have been throw­ing great. I’m just try­ing to fo­cus on one pitch at a time and ex­e­cute.”

Said Scios­cia: “He’s show­ing the tools and do­ing a great job com­mu­ni­cat­ing with the pitch­ers.”

Short hops

San­tana’s strike­out of More­land in the fifth was the 845th of his ca­reer, mov­ing him past Rudy May and into eighth place on the An­gels’ all­time list. . . . The An­gels won Tues­day night de­spite col­lect­ing only four hits.

Chris Carl­son

NOTH­ING DO­ING: Ervin San­tana, who shut out Texas in last year’s AL West clincher, blanked the Rangers on five hits Tues­day.

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