Anaheim, CA, United States (4E Sports) – Ervin Santana matched a career-best 11 strikeouts and the Los Angeles Angels gained little ground in the race for the second American League wild card spot with a 6-2 win over the Chicago White Sox Friday at Angels Stadium.
Santana (9-12) gave up one earned run in seven innings of two-hit ball to help the Angels move 3 1/2 games behind the Oakland Athletics for the second AL wild card spot with 11 outings remaining.
After two more games against the White Sox, the Angels will face the Seattle Mariners in a three-game home series before traveling to Texas for a three-game series against the Rangers. Then the Angels travel to Seattle for another three-game set against the Mariners.
“The mission’s the same: We need to go out there every night and play with focus to put ourselves in a position to win games,” manager Mike Scioscia told MLB.com.
“You think it’s a lot; you have to pretty much win four games and they have to lose four, but it can happen,” Angels outfielder Torii Hunter said. “It can happen. The A’s play some pretty good teams.”
While the Angels are fighting for a playoff spot, Santana has been pitching for his future in Los Angeles.
Ten weeks ago, Santana had a 4-10 record and a 6.00 ERA, prompting many skeptics that the Angels will decline their $13 million club option for 2013 and let him walk as a free agent.
However, Santana bounced back, going 5-2 in his last seven starts with a 3.08 ERA, giving the Angels a reason to think twice on his contract or make him more appealing to other teams in case he becomes a free agent.
“I don’t even think about that,” Santana said, referring to his future with the Angels. “I’m just thinking about right now. And when they give me a chance to pitch, I’m just going to pitch and do my job. If it’s going to happen [free agency], it’s going to happen. But I’m not thinking about that.”
Santana gave up a homer to White Sox leadoff hitter Alejandro De Aza in the first inning but retired 21 of the next 23 batters he faced after that.
“Tonight was probably the best I’ve ever seen him,” White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko said.
“Early, it looked like he wasn’t going to be spotting it, but he found it pretty quick,” White Sox skipper Robin Ventura added. “It was one of those where he was wild enough just to keep you guessing.”
The Angels provided enough offensive support for Santana, scoring five runs, including a solo shot by Kendrys Morales, in the first four innings against Jake Peavy (11-12), who gave up five earned runs on eight hits with three strikeouts in five frames.
In the seventh, Mike Trout became only the fourth rookie since 1964 to score 120 runs after hitting his 28th homer to give the Angels a 5-1 lead.