Santana finds groove with Wilson behind plate

Santana finds groove with Wilson behind plate

ANAHEIM -- There's been a common component to practically all of Ervin Santana's best starts this season. The man calling the game behind the plate has been catcher Bobby Wilson.

Wilson was there for Santana's two most recent gems: his complete game effort last Tuesday against Minnesota, and the no-hitter he twirled in Cleveland on July 27. The Wilson-Santana combo also teamed up for an eight-inning outing at the end of June and a shutout of the Braves on May 20.

Because of those performances, it appears that Wilson has emerged as Santana's go-to catcher. Wilson started Sunday's rubber-match against the Mariners marking the third straight time Wilson and Santana have been paired together.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia wouldn't divulge if this was the beginning of a permanent pairing between the two. He noted that Santana has seen success with Jeff Mathis and Hank Conger at times this year, but right now he wanted to stick with what's working.

"I think those guys have really good chemistry and they're working well together," Scioscia said. "Jeff or Hank or whoever's been here has done a really good job behind the plate. Based on the last couple of starts I really feel comfortable doing it, we'll just try to keep that going today."

The stat breakdown certainly supports Scioscia's decision. In six games with Wilson this year, Santana has given up 12 earned runs for a 2.33 ERA. When paired with Conger his ERA is a full run higher (3.42 in 79 IP). Santana's worst numbers have come with Mathis behind the dish -- a 4.26 ERA in 31 2/3 innings.

His struggles with Mathis contrast with the last two seasons when Mathis caught the majority of Santana's starts, coaching the right-hander to his best ERA among his catching partners each season.

"There's not enough [evidence] to say that Jeff is not working well with Ervin this season," Scioscia said. "What you hope, and we talked about this for a long time, getting a little bit more offense behind the plate. You hope that from the defensive side they're working well with every pitcher. You have better options, might match up better or swing the bat a little better in certain situations. I think that's what we'll continue to look for but also keeping in mind there's some real strong numbers that Jeff has with some pitchers."