With the free-falling Red Sox losing again on Wednesday, the Angels pulled to within 2 1/2 games of the American League Wild Card, which is suddenly becoming Los Angeles' best shot at reaching October. The Halos began the night five games behind the Rangers in the AL West.
With Santana and Jered Weaver going the next two games, the Angels have to like their chances to put even more pressure on Boston.
The Halos, who are 58-39 in games started by their big three, will look for more on Thursday when Santana squares off against Henderson Alvarez and the Blue Jays in Toronto. But if you ask Vernon Wells, it's up to the Angels' lineup to carry the load at this point of the season.
"Our offense can be the difference. Our pitching staff is still the best thing we have going all season long," Wells said. "Our offense needs to be that difference. We're having our studs go on three days' rest. We need to support them any way we can. We need to do our job."
Of course, Santana hasn't looked particularly dominant throughout his current three-game losing streak after winning eight of his previous nine starts.
Entering Thursday, Santana had already walked more batters this month (16) than in any other month during his Major League career. Much of that can be attributed to his seven-walk outing Sept. 1 -- a game he actually won -- but he has combined to walk seven batters over his last two starts, as well, giving up a total of 10 earned runs in that span.
Despite his recent struggles, Santana has been a workhorse this season. He has thrown a career-high 222 2/3 innings and has gone at least six frames in 16 straight starts. With Santana getting deep into the game, Wells said it will be up to the Angels' hitters to come through in key situations with runners in scoring position.
"We've got to get hits with runners on," said Wells, who is batting .267 with men in scoring position. "We've seen it happen. When we don't come through in RBI situations, we find ourselves on the losing end of a lot of ballgames."
They will need to do it against Alvarez, who has come back to earth over his last two outings after racking up 14 consecutive scoreless innings. The rookie right-hander has thrown six innings or more in six straight starts, and although he was roughed up for five runs in his last start, he still hasn't lost a game since Aug. 26.
Angels: Bourjos reaches unprecedented territory
Peter Bourjos' leadoff triple in the third inning Wednesday night put him in unmatched territory in Angels history. Bourjos is the first Angel to record 25 doubles, 10 triples, 10 homers and 20 steals in a single season.
The speedster added to that by blasting a solo homer in the fifth. On top of that, Bourjos is widely considered to be the best defensive center fielder in the Majors and could add a Gold Glove to his impressive resume.
"Naturally, I'd love to win a Gold Glove," Bourjos said Tuesday. "But I also realize there are a lot of great center fielders in the league."
Wells has been in a groove at the plate lately. The left fielder has hit six homers and knocked in 15 runs over his last 16 games.
Blue Jays: Lawrie done for season with broken finger
Brett Lawrie fractured his right middle finger while fielding ground balls prior to Wednesday night's game, and the rookie third baseman will be shut down for the rest of the season.
Lawrie finished his impressive rookie campaign with a .293 average and .953 OPS. He hit nine home runs and racked up 25 RBIs in 43 games.
Thanks in part to Lawrie, the Blue Jays lead the Majors with 44 home runs by rookies this season. Catcher J.P. Arencibia has led the way among Toronto's rookies with 23 homers.
Jose Bautista went 1-for-4 on Wednesday. The AL MVP candidate has reached base safely in 130 of the 142 games he's played this season.
The Angels need five wins in their last seven games to reach the 90-win mark for the sixth time in the last eight seasons.
The Blue Jays are 4-5 against the Angels this season. Toronto has not won the season series with the Halos since 2007.