Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Hector Santiago crouched between home plate and the pitcher’s mound Wednesday night, soothing his strained ankle after an errant throw sailed down the right field line. His overly ambitious attempt to nail Brett Gardner backfired, scoring Mark Teixeira in a game that was already out of hand.
It was the epitome of Santiago’s season.
The left hander allowed five runs in the first inning- three on errors-and didn’t make it past the third. He’s yielded four or more runs in a single inning four times in seven starts. April 14 against Oakland was the only time he advanced past the sixth inning and he didn’t even get a decision. Worst of all, Santiago’s six losses tie Houston’s Brett Oberholtzer for the league lead.
Santiago is the black sheep in a trade that brought Tyler Skaggs to Anaheim and sent Mark Trumbo to Arizona. To call him a hard luck loser is kind, especially when considering his 1.59 WHIP and 5.19 ERA is the highest among Angels starters.
Lefties tend to throw more fastballs and curveballs than right-handed pitchers, and Santiago is no different. Unlike most, his arsenal includes a screwball. The problem is only 31 percent of balls in play are on the dirt. Even then, batters find infield holes at a .318 clip.
If he isn’t mowing down the lineup in order, Santiago is getting runners on in bunches. His 1.67 strikeout-to-walk ratio is the lowest of his career and he allows a .389 batting average with two out and runners in scoring position. It happens a lot and it costs Santiago dearly.
On April 8, Santiago nearly escaped the fourth inning unscathed before a two-out strikeout got away from Chris Iannetta. Seattle scored four in the inning on their way to a 5-3 victory. Three starts later, Santiago pitched with two outs and the bases loaded. He balked, scoring the runner from third, and subsequently gave up a single to hand New York a 3-1 lead.
Still, one can’t help but think that he’s better than this. After all, an offense that leads the American League in home runs (40) and trails only Chicago for most runs scored (168) musters 2.1 runs per game when Santiago starts. The Halos haven’t eclipse three runs when he’s on the rubber. For comparison, every other starter gets at least five runs per outing.
Factor in an AL West-leading 20 errors and the Angels appear to set Santiago up for failure on a nightly basis. The lack of runs, constant fielding miscues, 4.08 bullpen ERA cultivate in Santiago losing five of seven starts by three runs or less.
As Mike Scioscia signaled to the bullpen for Santiago’s replacement, the embattled pitcher didn’t wait to hand his manager the ball. He walked off the mound and didn’t break stride, walking down the dugout and into the clubhouse.
Santiago knew he’d blown it. But it wasn’t completely his fault. If he gets half the runs support C.J Wilson and Garrett Richards receive, mistakes will be bearable. Until then, he’ll keeps searching for that elusive first win.