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07/04/07 12:56 PM ET
Santana sent home early by Wilkerson
Right-hander strikes out career-high 11, but allows two homers
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- Deep in the heart of Texas, Ervin Santana was on his way to a Nolan Ryan sort of game -- eight strikeouts in three innings -- when Brad Wilkerson rudely interrupted his reverie. The first of three Wilkerson home runs, a three-run blast in the fourth inning, turned around a game that abruptly and decisively went to Texas, 8-3, on Tuesday night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. "If he can bring that stuff he had tonight," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Santana, "he's going to win a lot of games." Santana didn't win this one, slipping to 5-9 in his 17 starts, largely because Kevin Millwood chose this particular night to pitch like the Millwood of old. For Figgins, in particular, to go hitless is news. He'd hit in 27 of the previous 28 games, collecting 57 hits for a .463 average. Cabrera was a .381 hitter in May and June, covering 226 at-bats. And Willits is a .330 hitter even after going 0-for-4. Successive hits by Casey Kotchman, Garret Anderson and Howie Kendrick produced a pair of second-inning runs, Kendrick's single delivering both, but Millwood retired 13 in a row after that, and by then Wilkerson had pretty much ruined the Angels' night with his sweet uppercut from the left side. "Wilkerson, that's at least four he's hit off [Santana]," Scioscia said. "He must see the ball well off Ervin. Wilkerson had a great night." In 72 previous Major League starts, Santana hadn't struck out more than 10. He shot down 11 Rangers on this occasion, including one -- Marlon Byrd -- who reached first when the third-strike breaking ball had too much bite. It kicked away from catcher Jose Molina's grasp for a wild pitch, and a moment later, after a single and a sacrifice, Wilkerson was measuring Santana's 2-1 delivery for the seats in right center. "I feel very good about every pitch," Santana said, quickly amending that thought. "I think I threw two mistakes -- a changeup in the middle [of the plate] and a back-door curveball." It was Wilkerson again in the sixth, leading off with a rocket into the right-field corner. Santana has yielded 21 homers this season, more than any pitcher in the American League, but a lot of great pitchers have thrown a lot of long balls -- Robin Roberts and Don Sutton are a couple of Hall of Fame names that come to mind. The secret is to keep the damage at a minimum by keeping runners off base when serving up gopher balls, something Santana was half successful doing. Just to show he was an equal opportunity abuser of Angels pitchers, Wilkerson launched his third homer of the night in the seventh, a two-run shot against Chris Bootcheck, finally calling a halt to the assault. The Angels have hit a little skid, "a bump in the road," Scioscia called it. They've dropped five of the past seven, Seattle making up ground in the American League West race in the process. "We really couldn't pressure those guys the way we need to," Scioscia said. "It was one of those rare nights the first three guys were shut down. They need to set the table. Millwood did a good job of getting ahead and putting the ball in good zones." Santana reached 111 pitches, 71 strikes, when Scioscia came to get him with one out in the sixth. "I definitely think Ervin had the aggressiveness we're looking for," Scioscia said. "Ervin's breaking ball was very sharp tonight. He's had a couple of games where his stuff was good -- one against the Dodgers when it emerged. We're looking for it on a consistent basis." The offense was almost intact with Anderson back, in the DH role, after missing two weeks with an aggravation of his right hip injury. Anderson stroked a double the other way in his first at-bat, scoring on Kendrick's single. Maicer Izturis also made his return to active duty, grounding out in a pinch-hit opportunity in the eighth. The infielder was batting for Molina, whose work load is about to expand with Mike Napoli on the disabled list with a deep bone contusion in his left shin. Jeff Mathis was summoned from Triple-A Salt Lake to back up Molina. Chris Resop joined the Angels' bullpen with the detachment of Hector Carrasco, designated for assignment. Resop threw a perfect eighth inning in his Angels debut.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.