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