Santiago made a strong case to regain his job as a member of the Angels rotation on Tuesday, when the 26-year-old left-hander fired six shutout innings against a first-place A's team that ranks fourth in the Majors in OPS, walking just one batter, scattering three hits and striking out a season-high eight.
He was a far cry from the guy who went 0-6 with a 5.19 ERA in his first seven starts of the season, prompting the Angels to replace him with Matt Shoemaker in the rotation, and even the guy who just posted a 6.43 ERA in three Triple-A starts.
Santiago gave up six runs (four earned) on 11 hits in six innings in his most recent outing for the Salt Lake Bees, but said he "threw the ball great" and cautioned not to pay much attention to the line score.
Conditions in the Pacific Coast League can be that harsh sometimes.
"I can say six or seven of the hits were probably outs if the game started 45 minutes later," Santiago said. "The way the sun was, the left side of the infield basically had no chance."
Santiago focused more on the fact that he was commanding all of his pitches and didn't issue any walks. The biggest difference was that he was "driving through the zone" and not "hopping to home plate" like he was earlier in the year.
Driving toward home plate, rather than drifting from side to side in his delivery, was a major point of emphasis in Santiago's three weeks in the Minor Leagues. At one point on Tuesday -- a 2-1, 14-inning win by the Angels -- he felt himself falling into old habits, so he stepped off the mound, drew a straight line from the rubber to home plate with his shoe and told himself, "Just go through it."
Suddenly his cutter was a lot more crisp, and he was consistently spotting his fastball glove side -- two traits that had eluded him all year.
And pretty soon, when Tyler Skaggs returns from a right hamstring strain that isn't expected to keep him out much longer than two weeks, the Angels could have an interesting decision on their hands again.
"That's the Hector Santiago that can go out there every time he gets the ball and pitch like that," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Maybe not always the same results, but the way he went after hitters, the way he brought his other pitches into the game. It was textbook."