Santana blanks White Sox for first win

Young Santana blanks baseball's best

ANAHEIM -- Ervin Santana vowed to not visit Angel Stadium until he was a Major Leaguer, and Monday he was not only true to his word, but he made sure he left a lasting impression.

Pressed into the rotation with the injury to Kelvim Escobar, Santana was rudely greeted in his first big league start, when he gave up the cycle to the first four batters at Cleveland's Jacobs Field last week. The results didn't improve much over his four innings against the Indians and Major League start No. 1 went down in the books as a loss.

But on Monday, Santana showed why the Angels are excited about the future of their pitching staff as he saved the first look at his best stuff for the hometown folks.

The 22-year-old right-hander took the mound and calmly retired the first 10 batters he faced before allowing a one-out double to Tadahito Iguchi in the fourth. The White Sox would get just four more hits off Santana, all singles, as he tied together his first win, first complete game and first shutout into one tight and impressive package in a 4-0 victory.

Santana became the youngest Angel to pitch a shutout since Jim Abbott blanked the Red Sox on May 17, 1989. It was also the first time the White Sox have been shut out this year and handed Jon Garland his first loss in the process.

Garland opened the season 8-0 for the red-hot White Sox, a team that entered the four-game series against the Angels with the Major Leagues' best mark at 31-13. But the right-hander was unable to harness any magic on Monday as the Angels greeted Garland with 11 hits, four of which went for extra bases.

It wasn't so much that Santana was a different pitcher than the one who began his big league career on the road with a loss. It was more the case that Santana on Monday delivered as advertised and performed to the lofty expectations that surround the potential ace.

"He pitched like a 10-year vet with great stuff and that was fun to watch," manager Mike Scioscia said.

Santana declared after his outing in Cleveland that he would fare better in his next start. And while he didn't predict he would pose quite the dominating presence that he struck against the White Sox, he felt pretty good about his chances.

"I was confident in myself and my ability to pitch," Santana said.

Santana has a power arm capable of hitting the gun routinely in the mid 90s with his fastball and complements that with a power slider and good changeup. His stuff was fine against the Indians, but his location wasn't as he left too many pitches in the heart of the strike zone.

Big first for Santana
White Sox at Angels, May 23, 2005
Ervin Santana (1-1) picked up his first Major League victory and did it by tossing a shutout against the team with the best record in baseball. He fanned seven of the 32 batters he faced and set down the first 10 batters who stepped in against him. His line:
IPHRERBBSOERA
9.0500174.15
Santana had not pitched more than seven innings in any of his seven 2005 starts for the Arkansas Travelers (AA). His last complete game was for the Class A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes of the California League on May 16, 2003.

Key numbers for Santana:
Pitches-strikes: 115-83; Groundouts-flyouts: 9-9;
Season strikeouts-walks: 8-4; WHIP: 1.31

Against the White Sox, Santana showed not only mastery of his pitches but commanded the strike zone. He did not have a three-ball count until A.J. Pierzynski flied out to center to lead off the fifth and did not issue a walk until Jermaine Dye got aboard with two out in the seventh.

Of his seven strikeouts, four were to end an inning as Santana was equally comfortable going offspeed for an out pitch as he was gunning up the heater.

"The key to tonight was his fastball command," Scioscia said. "And his changeup and his slider were all in the zone."

Santana mixed all three pitches well on Monday, using his changeup more against left-handers as an out pitch and going with his fastball and slider against right-handers. Bengie Molina could sense that his pitcher had it working after he came back to retire Pierzynski in the fifth, but said his composure may be his greatest asset.

"I wasn't surprised at all," said Molina, whose solo homer in the eighth helped Santana stay in the game by giving the Angels a four-run edge. "I thought the guy had the makeup to come up here and make it."

Santana gave Molina credit for making Monday's outing a two-man affair, just a pitcher throwing to his catcher, which allowed him to find the proper rhythm to be effective.

"When I go too fast, all of my pitches are up, so I slowed down," Santana said.

While the fans in attendance received Darin Erstad bobblehead dolls, Santana got a game ball, nine of them in fact, one for each shutout inning, with the last out still wrapped in his glove.

"I'm going to take them home and keep them," Santana said.

The Angels also supplied some solid defense with Erstad, appropriately, involved in three highlight reel plays. Twice Erstad hung over the railing at the visitors' dugout to snare a foul popup, and he began a 3-6 double play to erase Paul Konerko in the seventh, the only leadoff man to reach.

"Talk about composure," Erstad said. "For a young kid, that was incredible."

Scioscia let Santana stay in for the ninth after Molina's homer, based on a 110-pitch outing he threw at Double-A Arkansas this season. But he could not commit a third start or a permanent seat in the Angels rotation for now.

"We're going to wait and see where Kelvim is," Scioscia said. "If he's ready to go, he'll pitch Saturday." Scioscia also said that Santana would not stay with the club as a member of the bullpen.

The Angels staked Santana to an early lead with a two-out rally in the bottom of the second. After Juan Rivera singled and was thrown out attempting to steal second and Molina grounded to second, Dallas McPherson worked a seven-pitch walk.

Orlando Cabrera singled and advanced to second as third baseman Joe Crede could not handle the throw from center fielder Timo Perez in an attempt to get McPherson, who went from first to third on the play. Adam Kennedy then split the left-center gap with a double off Garland for a 2-0 Angels lead.

Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.