Santana unravels in fourth inning as Halos fall

Santana unravels in fourth inning as Halos fall

Santana unravels in fourth inning as Halos fall
TORONTO -- Ervin Santana has either been really good or really bad and nothing in between this season.

Through the first three innings at Rogers Centre on Friday night, the Angels had Good Santana on the mound. But his alter-ego showed for the bottom of the fourth, giving up five runs to allow the Blue Jays to pull ahead in a game the Angels eventually lost, 7-5.

The loss snapped a four-game winning streak, dropped the Angels to 5 1/2 games behind the Rangers and marked just their second defeat in their last 16 road games.

Santana may not have factored in the decision -- that went to Jordan Walden, who gave up the go-ahead double to Yunel Escobar in the seventh -- but the Angels must be getting motion sickness watching his performance ping-pong.

In Santana's first four starts, he pitched poorly (0-4, 7.23 ERA). In his next five, his performance was strong (2.25 ERA). In four starts after that, he struggled (10.18 ERA). And in two starts heading into this one, he was good again (two earned runs in 17 innings).

Then -- for one inning, at least -- Santana lost his form.

"I have my mind positive," said Santana, whose ERA increased to 5.12 after he yielded yielding five runs in five-plus innings. "I don't know what happened, but in my mind, I'm positive and I'm throwing better strikes right now, knowing that if I make my pitch down and away and they still hit it, that's not my fault. They made good adjustments."

Santana retired nine of the first 11 hitters he faced. Then, when he took the mound with a 2-0 lead in the fourth, things got ugly.

Jose Bautista led off with a double, Edwin Encarnacion got the Blue Jays on the board with an RBI single and Escobar drove him in with a game-tying single two batters later. After a Rajai Davis double put runners on second and third, first baseman Adam Lind crushed a 1-0 slider that was up just a tad, sending it over the 400-foot mark in center field to give the Blue Jays a 5-2 lead.

"Some things got away from him tonight, not only the fourth inning, but then again in the sixth," said manager Mike Scioscia, who removed Santana after he put two runners on to start the sixth despite having only thrown 85 pitches. "But if you look at the way Ervin has pitched his last couple starts, you're seeing a different pitcher. That's what we need to see. Tonight, he just didn't look like he got comfortable in the game."

The home run was the 19th surrendered by Santana this year, which is tied for second in the American League and easily on pace to shatter his average over the previous six seasons (24).

It was the first of two homers on the night by Lind, whose head-scratching offensive struggles recently led to him spending more than a month in the Minors.

"It was definitely a relief to hit a home run and help the team win," said Lind, who gave the Blue Jays an insurance run with a solo shot off Hisanori Takahashi in the eighth. "This is the team that I belong on. I missed the guys for the month that I was gone and it was nice to be back out there mixing it up with them."

The Angels' offense continued to produce, posting a double-digit hit total for the eighth time in nine games. The Halos tied it up on a fifth-inning RBI double by Albert Pujols and a seventh-inning two-run homer by John Hester -- his third of the season and second in as many starts.

But a bullpen that had posted a 1.97 ERA in its previous 44 games couldn't keep the game tied.

Walden, demoted from the closer's role in April and basically barred from pitching with a lead ever since, got the first two outs in the bottom of the seventh. But then he made a mistake to Encarnacion that resulted in a single, walked Kelly Johnson on a 3-2 count and gave up what ended up being the decisive double on a down-the-middle fastball to Escobar.

Walden's outing gave the bullpen its first loss since May 30 and marked just the second time since June 4 that it had given up more than one run in a game.

"I made a couple bad pitches," Walden said. "I made that one to Encarnacion, and then I walked Kelly Johnson, and y'all saw everything else."

But the big concern for the Angels are the last two starters who took the mound, Santana and Dan Haren.

The Angels' rotation has sported the lowest ERA in the AL for most of the season, but that has mostly been in spite of Haren and Santana, who have combined for a 10-15 record and a 4.83 ERA this season.

The Angels are 11-21 in their starts and 32-13 with everyone else.

"We do not consider them soft spots," Scioscia said. "We think they're going to do what we need them to do over the course of the season, and we need these guys. Those guys have gone up against some tough lineups and pitched well this year. They just haven't thrown the ball with the consistency that we know is in both of them. We have every confidence when they take the mound they're going to give us a chance to win."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.