Santana gets back on the wave

Now that Ervin Santana is pitching better for the Angels, his calm demeanor seems to serve him well. Gary A. Vasquez/US Presswire

ANAHEIM -- Ervin Santana looks about the same whether he's giving up a monster home run or pitching a no-hitter.

He has a passive demeanor, as if he's taking his dog for a walk rather than competing for the highest stakes in a major-league stadium. It can come across as uncaring when he's struggling, but comes in handy when he's pitching well and his team is letting him down.

Saturday was one of those times when it was handy. For the second start in a row, Santana had dynamic stuff and, for the second start in a row, he was getting it to places hitters couldn't reach. Unlike his one-hitter six days earlier, Saturday's effort didn't stand up in a 3-1 loss to the Dodgers.

Albert Pujols got too aggressive with a throw that led to an error and a run. Maicer Izturis made at least one, maybe two, costly misplays that cost the Angels runs. And the Angels hitters seemed baffled against lefty Chris Capuano pitching in the late-afternoon shadows.

And, as usual, Santana seemed nonchalant after watching his record fall to 4-8. He didn't allow a walk or home run and he struck out 10 Dodgers.

"When I was pitching bad, I didn't get frustrated, so why do I have to be frustrated when I'm pitching better?" Santana said. "I know my team's going to get there, so I just have to keep pitching and everything's going to come to our side."

There is, in fact, some evidence to that effect. Going into Saturday, the Angels were 21-7 in their last 28 games, chewing up the National League, as usual, and pushing toward the top of the double-wild card race. Assuming this two-game sample size is the beginning of a trend for Santana, the Angels don't have much to worry about on the pitching side, even with Jerome Williams on the disabled list and Dan Haren a tick off his usual form.

But Santana has been a tease at times this year, pitching five good games from late April to mid-May before hitting the skids and surrendering home runs and walks in lethal doses for the next three weeks. Before his previous start, most observers considered him in imminent danger of being demoted to the bullpen.

"His season has gone in waves," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

Santana spent a little quality time in the bullpen with pitching coach Mike Butcher on Wednesday, concentrating on one thing: location. He feels like he figured something out and the results the past two games back that up. His current form could allow him to keep a grip in yet another prime location: The Angels' rotation.