Santiago was coming off a four-run outing in his previous start, which prompted manager Mike Scioscia to give the left-hander an extra day of rest -- pushing him back from Thursday to Friday to give him a breather. But Friday's start turned out to be perhaps Santiago's worst of the year.
"I thought Hector was really indecisive," Scioscia said. "It looked like he was not only trying to find his release point to execute pitches and repeat his delivery -- which he's been doing really well this year -- but just searching to get back into his game plan. He had trouble putting pitches together; [he was] behind in a lot of counts. Just wasn't as crisp as we've seen him, and he paid a price for it."
In his last two games, Santiago's ERA has increased from 2.30 -- which was third-best in the American League -- to 2.70. The nine total runs he's given up in just 10-plus combined innings have followed a three-game stretch coming out of the All-Star break in which Santiago allowed just two runs in 19 innings.
On Friday, the price Santiago paid came in several forms. It started with former Angel Howie Kendrick's long home run in the first inning, which came on a 73-mph curveball Santiago hung right over the heart of the plate. Santiago later gave up a second long ball, a two-run shot to Alex Guerrero in the fourth that gave the Dodgers a 3-1 lead after the Angels had tied the game.
But it was a bloop, not a blast, that Santiago said really hurt him. In the fifth, Santiago had two outs and nobody on when Scott Van Slyke skied a ball to shallow-right field that somehow fell for a double, just inside the foul line, between multiple converging Angels. The Dodgers went on to score two runs in the inning, pushing their lead to 5-1.
"His whole approach is kind of left-center, in the gap, and he put the ball exactly where we thought he wasn't gonna be," Santiago said of Van Slyke. "That ball kind of falls in -- if we can make that play, it changes the whole inning, it changes the whole game. We're still 3-1 -- down 3-1 with a chance -- it keeps us in the game right there. And they score those runs, that's a big part of the game, big inning right there, where it changes everything."
Down the season's stretch run -- and especially now, with veteran Angels starters Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson on the disabled list -- the Angels need the pitcher who's been their best all season to get back to the form that got him to the Midsummer Classic.
David Adler is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @_dadler. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.