But those same starters were knocked around a bit in Baltimore, allowing the Orioles to put up 15 runs over three games, despite coming away with wins in the series' first two games.
"I think [Santana's] stuff maybe wasn't as sharp, but I don't know if you can expect that from every pitcher for 33 starts," said manager Mike Scioscia. "He still was a pitch or two away from pitching to give us a chance to win, and he made some good pitches. ... Things didn't go as easily for Ervin as they have some games. He was OK, not as sharp."
It was the Orioles' first win on a Sunday in 15 tries, their last Sunday victory coming during the first week of the season.
Santana struggled from the outset and had trouble settling in, allowing four earned runs in the game's first three innings. After a two-run first, his most laborious inning was the third, in which he gave up two hits and two walks, allowing four of the first five batters to reach.
Nonetheless, Santana, who admitted he was "beat up" a bit, was not disappointed in his outing, preferring to think of it as another successful start that simply ended up in the wrong side of the win-loss column.
"I say it's not a bad start," Santana said. "Every time you give up five or less runs, everything's good. ... There was a couple of pitches the umpire didn't call, but everything was good."
"I think he was getting behind some hitters early and had to work his way back into counts," Scioscia said. "Obviously, that wasn't the game plan, but even when guys got on base, especially [Guillermo] Quiroz, the catcher, they had a couple of times to put him away, [he] just couldn't make a pitch there. ... He created some situations early that he had to work harder to get through, but still he had some opportunities to get out of a couple of jams and just couldn't make a pitch."
But Santana rebounded from the first few rough innings nicely, sitting down seven consecutive batters between the third and fifth frames. But in the bottom of the sixth, when Quiroz knocked in Jay Payton with the Orioles' fifth run, his third RBI of the day, Santana was done.
The right-hander, who dropped to 11-5 on the season, finished with five-plus innings, allowing five runs off seven hits and three walks, with five strikeouts.
The Angels' offense, on the other hand, had trouble solving Orioles left-hander Garrett Olson. The bats mustered only two runs off eight hits, an aberration for a team that has been almost gluttonous lately on offense.
"It's just that we couldn't put hits together today," said second baseman Howie Kendrick. "For whatever reason, our hits were a little scattered out. ... If you want to win ballgames, you've got to get hits at the right time, and when your runners are in scoring position, you've got to get them in."
Kendrick played a pivotal part in the Angels' first run of the game. In the fourth inning, after a single by Erick Aybar, Kendrick battled through an eight-pitch at-bat that resulted in a single, putting Aybar at third base. Vladimir Guerrero plated Aybar on a groundout.
"[Olson] left a fastball out over the plate, and I just didn't try to do too much with it, just hit it, and Aybar went first to third," Kendrick said. "That's part of the things we do when we're going well. We run the bases well, and going first to third, there was proof of that, and that's how we manufactured our first run. We didn't even get a hit, and we got a run there and moved me up to second base."
But that was almost all the offense the Angels would get. They rallied in the seventh to send Olson from the game after two consecutive singles opened the inning, and they would cut into the Orioles' lead with their second run of the game two batters later on a pinch-hit single by Garret Anderson.
The loss was just the second for the Angels since the All-Star break.
"The way we played today, it's not any easier to take, because we won some games coming into here," Scioscia said. "The challenge is the game at hand and what you have to play moving forward, and that's what we have to focus on. We just didn't play well today."