ANAHEIM -- So, what made Ervin Santana so much more effective against the Indians on Wednesday night? Part of the reason -- in addition to the five-run cushion, the light-hitting offense he faced and the fact he got first-pitch strikes on 16 of 25 hitters -- was his slider.
That pitch is appreciably slower these days, and that's a good thing. While pitching seven innings of one-run ball in his most recent outing, Santana's average slider velocity was 81.7 mph. His previous start against the Mariners, it was 81.3. Prior to that, though, it's been mostly at 83-85 mph this season.
That subtle dip in velocity has seemingly given the pitch more break and better results.
On Wednesday night, only one Indians hitter -- Asdrubal Cabrera in the fourth -- reached base against Santana's slider. He threw it 40.4 percent of the time, representing the highest rate since June 23, while using it to record a third of his outs and notch three of his four strikeouts.
Indians manager Manny Acta noted it postgame as the main reason why Santana had success, and Angels skipper Mike Scioscia believes it's a pitch Santana is throwing much better lately.
"As he's found his release point with his slider, it's created more depth in the pitch, whereas earlier it was horizontal when he wasn't able to find his release point," Scioscia said. "That is a power breaking ball. He's thrown that thing anywhere from 81 to 85 mph. That's a power breaking ball, and it has depth. And you're starting to see some of those ugly swings that we haven't seen for a long time."