By the time he finished, he had given up only one run through the first six innings of an eventual 10-2 rout. It came against a flawed Twins offense, but it included only four baserunners, five strikeouts and a lot of counts in his favor.
Said Santiago: "I definitely needed a good start at some point to get things going."
The 28-year-old left-hander pitched eight scoreless innings against the Mariners on May 15, then went through a five-start stretch in which he posted a 12.18 ERA and couldn't record an out in the fifth inning on four separate occasions.
But Santiago thought he was closer than he appeared.
One of those starts, against the Orioles on May 20, ended after 2 2/3 innings because of a surprising ejection. Another -- six runs in 6 2/3 innings against the Tigers on May 31, but also nine strikeouts -- was better than the line score showed. And another, in Pittsburgh on June 5, ended after four innings because of a bottom of the second that lasted too long.
"I think I was kind of like one pitch away, or one out away, from something turning into a good start," Santiago said. "I definitely needed this, for sure, after the last five or six games. It was definitely a positive night."
Santiago was facing a team with the eighth-lowest OPS in the Majors and benefited from plenty of run support, but the results were nonetheless positive.
He gave up two hits and two walks, facing trouble only in the fifth inning. He was perfect through the first three frames. He was ahead in the count against 15 of the 22 hitters he faced and used his changeup effectively. And he was masterful locating inside to right-handed hitters.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia said the tough decisions in his rotation are "a little bit further away" than they might appear.
But Santiago -- who can be optioned to the Minor Leagues or sent to the bullpen, where he has had success -- seemed to buy himself some time.
"I don't ever doubt myself," said Santiago, his ERA still at 5.30. "Every time I'm out there, I believe in every pitch I throw. If I execute a pitch the way I want to, it's going to be a good night. As long as I can keep executing pitches, my stuff's going to work. It's just a matter of keeping it in the zone. That showed tonight. Six innings, I was ahead on most guys, and nothing happened. No damage."
Alden Gonzalez has covered the Angels for MLB.com since 2012. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.