ANAHEIM, Calif. – Ervin Santana rebounded from one of the worst outings of his career with some timely advice from pitching coach Mike Butcher – and an unexpected assist from Ichiro Suzuki.
Santana allowed one run over seven innings, Shea Hillenbrand hit a two-run homer after a Suzuki lost a flyball in the twilight, and the Los Angeles Angels beat the Seattle Mariners 4-1 on Tuesday night.
Santana (4-6) threw 26 of his 97 pitches in the first inning. Suzuki lined a single through the box on the right-hander’s second pitch, extending his hitting streak to 22 games, then scored on a fielder’s-choice grounder by Jose Guillen before Santana walked his next two batters.
Butcher went to the mound for a chat, and Santana retired Kenji Johjima on an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded. He then scattered three hits over the next six innings, including infield hits by Raul Ibanez and Yuniesky Betancourt.
“All I told him was, ‘It’s one pitch at a time, and you’re always one pitch away from getting out of an inning.’ He did the rest,” Butcher said. “He had good stuff and he went at them. He commanded the ball better, pitched well inside, threw some good sliders and changeups and was very composed. It was a good three-pitch mix, and he made good pitches when he needed to.”
Santana gave up four hits, struck out four and walked two as the Angels extended their AL West lead over the second-place Mariners to 41/2 games. The right-hander improved to 4-1 at home following a 12-0 loss last Thursday at Detroit that dropped his road record to 0-5.
“I just concentrated more and kept the ball down,” Santana said. “But I didn’t change anything. I did the same things tonight that I did on the road. I just have to make my pitches.”
Scot Shields pitched a perfect eighth inning, and Francisco Rodriguez finished for his 17th save in 18 chances.
Ryan Feierabend (0-1) made his season debut for Seattle, allowing four runs on eight hits and striking out three in his third big league start and first since Sept. 29, 2006. He was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma to fill in for fellow left-hander Horacio Ramirez, who’s sidelined indefinitely because of shoulder tendinitis.
“Ryan pitched well, but we just couldn’t generate any offense tonight after the first inning,” manager Mike Hargrove said. “He changed speeds well. He threw one bad pitch, and that was to Hillenbrand for the two-run homer. But he kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win.”
Suzuki, a six-time Gold Glove right fielder playing his first season as a full-time center fielder, lost Robb Quinlan’s towering flyball in the early evening sky – leading to a pair of Angels runs in the fourth.
He drifted toward left-center, yelling “I got it!” several times to Ibanez before the ball landed behind Suzuki. Quinlan ended up with a double and scored two outs later when Hillenbrand pulled a 2-2 pitch just inside the left field pole for his third homer, giving the Angels a 3-1 lead.
“The ball became the same color as the sky, so I wasn’t able to see it,” Suzuki said through a translator.
Watching any center fielder lose a ball in the twilight at Angel Stadium was nothing new for Mariners teammate Jarrod Washburn, who spent eight seasons pitching for the Angels.
“It happens a lot here,” Washburn said. “It’s one of those things where, that time of night, you’d better bear down and never take your eyes off it or else you’re going to lose it.”
Suzuki still hasn’t been charged with an error this season.
“He’s a great defensive player, and this year he’s shown a little more of what he’s made of by playing center field instead of right,” Washburn said. “He can range a little more, and he’s run down some balls this year that shouldn’t have been caught. So it’s nice to have him out there.”
Reggie Willits led off the fifth with a single off Feierabend’s glove and scored on a groundout by Gary Matthews Jr. to make it 4-1. Quinlan also had an RBI single in the first.
Notes:@ The game was played in a crisp 2 hours, 8 minutes. … Suzuki’s hitting streak is one game shy of his career best in 2001 – and two off the Mariners’ franchise record set by Joey Cora in 1997. … Orlando Cabrera was picked off first base in the third inning – with Willits already occupying second. As a result, Vladimir Guerrero was intentionally walked. … Angels C Mike Napoli was 0-for-4, ending his career-best 14-game hitting streak.