Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 5/16/12
ANAHEIM, Calif. Even when things were at their worst, Ervin Santana remained steady. He never changed his stuff, never lost his confidence, never blamed the Angels' offense for his string of losses. He just kept pitching. Santana figured it would pay off; he just didn't know when. But now he's won two starts in a row, and maybe it's a sign that the Angels are finding some stability. Pitching is surely going to carry them. Despite a lineup that looks formidable on paper, they continue to struggle at the plate. You don't dismiss your hitting coach -- which the Angels did Monday when Mickey Hatcher was fired after a 4-0 win over the Oakland A's -- if your offense is producing. The Angels rank near the bottom of the American League in runs and total bases, and they've been shut out a league high eight times. A change was called for. It's their pitching that has carried them, and specifically their starting pitching that has provided the best results. Angels starters rank third in the AL in ERA (3.70) and second in opponents batting average (.235). Now that Santana looks back to his old self, there is little doubt the team will go as after as the starters take them. Santana is 2-6, but he's pitched seven innings or more and given up three earned runs or fewer in each of his past four starts. He served up 10 home runs in his first four starts but has allowed just two in his past four. The difference? "Nothing," he said. "I just keep pitching the same way I've been pitching the whole year and things changed. I just had a few rough outings and now it's time to move on and get better." Santana pitched as well Monday as he has all season. He gave up one hit through the first five innings and retired 16 consecutive batters at one point. Even when he loaded the bases after a hit and two walks, he struck out A's left fielder Seth Smith to end the inning. "He's executing," Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick said. "He's making good pitches and getting outs. Not that he wasn't going after guys earlier, but his command has been on point. If you see what he's been doing, he's been getting a lot of ground ball outs. That's what the difference is. "He's been lights out." Fastball command was Santana's biggest problem early in the season, but he now has that under control. He struck out nine A's, and although he walked three batters, he didn't give up a big hit. Best of all, he receiving offensive support. The Angels were shut out five times in a row during Santana's starts, but they scored six in his last start and four Monday, including a home run from rookie Mike Trout. Albert Pujols didn't get the ball out of the infield, but he had three infield singles, drove in two runs and got his batting average above the Mendoza line (.212) for the first time in 12 days. Even during those dreadful times, Santana's spirits stayed high. "Ervin has a pretty even heartbeat," manager Mike Scioscia said. "He doesn't get too high or too low. But inside, there's definitely a competitive mechanism he has. He wants to contribute, no doubt. He's getting a chance to." It's about time. Say this for Santana: He never blamed anyone for his tough luck. He just kept throwing and waiting for things to turn around. "It's tough," he said. "But at the same time, you see that your teammates are doing everything to try and score runs. At this point, we got runs today and I was very happy for the team and for me, too."
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