Santana's first half comes to rough close

Santana's first half comes to rough close

ANAHEIM -- What a profoundly disappointing difference 12 months can make.

Last year at this time, Ervin Santana was getting ready for a trip to New York and venerable Yankee Stadium for its final staging of the Midsummer Classic. An All-Star for the first time, he was an 11-game winner at the break, ranking among the American League leaders in strikeouts and innings pitched.

The All-Star break will be relatively quiet and reflective for Santana this time around. Battered into early submission by Andruw Jones in an 8-1 thrashing by the Rangers on Wednesday night, Santana, his first half over, will spend a few quiet days after the Yankees leave town this weekend wondering how something so good could go so bad.

The Rangers, having taken seven of nine from the Angels this season, seized the AL West lead by one game on the strength of Jones' three home runs on Wednesday along with blasts by Taylor Teagarden and Marlon Byrd. It's the first time since June 26 the Angels have had less than at least a share of the lead.

"Mistakes," Jones said, referring to two deliveries by Santana and another by reliever Rich Thompson that he pounded over the Angel Stadium fences. "They made mistakes, and I took advantage of them.

"I was just looking for pitches over the plate. What they were trying to do, everything was either hard or soft. Nothing in between. I was patient enough to put good wood on the ball."

Santana, who spent the first five weeks of the season on the disabled list recovering from a sprained right elbow, insisted he felt fine physically and, contrary to Jones' account, made decent pitches to a hitter living in the zone.

"When you're hot like that, no matter what you throw, he's going to hit it," Santana said. "They were fastballs, good pitches. He just hit the ball very good tonight.

"Everything is very good. I'm not worried about it. I'm trying to do my best. Sooner or later it's going to come out."

It needs to come sooner than later to satisfy the manager, Mike Scioscia, who is planning to sit down with Santana before Friday night's series opener against the Yankees to get a feel for where the pitcher is physically and mentally.

"Yes, there's concern," Scioscia said. "I'm sure he's healthy. But he's obviously not getting the ball where he wants to. We'll evaluate it on Friday when we get back [after a day off].

"I'm sure he's not where he was at his peak stage last year. Some pitchers aren't as crisp and they still find ways to win. This guy, he's not throwing 85 to 88. He's hitting 90 to 94. That's plenty if he's making pitches. That's his challenge now."

With Torii Hunter (muscle strain in his right thigh) and Vladimir Guerrero (muscle strain behind his left knee) both sitting it out, the Angels' offense fizzled against Vicente Padilla and the Texas bullpen.

Santana goes to the break 1-5 with a 7.81 ERA.

"He's struggling a little bit," catcher Jeff Mathis said. "He's not the only one. A lot of us are."

Santana never seemed to find his rhythm or his command -- thanks largely to the booming bat wielded by Jones.

The former Braves Gold Glove center fielder unloaded his first bomb with two outs and a runner aboard in the first, a no-doubt blast to left-center.

Jones' second drive curled inside the pole about 15 rows deep in the left-field corner, a two-out drive in the third following Omar Vizquel's leadoff double.

Santana was gone after four innings, Teagarden having taken him deep to center with one out in the fourth.

Four innings, seven hits and five earned runs were not what Santana had in mind when he took his repertoire to the mound with the idea of reversing his course and renewing his team's trust in his talents.

"I know I'm just coming from an injury," Santana said. "I don't want to think about it too much. I feel very good. They just hit the ball very good. Nothing I can do about it. Just forget about it."

Jones greeted Rich Thompson in the fifth with a shot into the Angels' bullpen, carving out the second three-homer game of his career with No. 14 of his comeback season.

"He's having a terrific season for them," Scioscia said. "He's obviously much more comfortable in the batter's box than we saw him last year with the Dodgers."

After a single by Hank Blalock, Byrd joined the home run party with a blast to left, his eighth of the season.

With two shots at becoming the 16th player to go deep four times in a game, Jones was silenced by Kevin Jepsen on a popup in the sixth before striking out against Jason Bulger in the ninth.

Singles by Erick Aybar, Chone Figgins and Bobby Abreu produced the Angels' only run in the third inning.

Padilla, who departed in the seventh after Howard Kendrick lined a shot off his right palm, moved to 7-4. The Nicaraguan right-hander escaped a first-and-third jam in the first inning by getting Juan Rivera -- the AL's most productive hitter since June 1 with 33 RBIs and 83 total bases -- to tap into a double play.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.