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Los Angeles Angels Hector Santiago getting hot at right time

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Jul 7, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Hector Santiago (53) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 7, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Hector Santiago (53) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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Los Angeles Angels pitcher Hector Santiago was terrible in May and June but has found a new rhythm in July — and it’s perfect timing for the Halos.

For Los Angeles Angels pitcher Hector Santiago, a lot can change in a year.

At this time last season, the left-hander was 6-4 with a 2.33 ERA, which was the third-lowest ERA in the league at the time. He dominated hitters and was consistent in doing so, allowing one or fewer earned runs in 11 of his 17 starts.

The numbers were good enough to earn Santiago his first selection to the All-Star team.

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Fast-forward to this season and the 28-year-old is 6-4 again, but that’s the only part of this season that has been identical to his last.

Santiago’s ERA is up to 4.58 and he has allowed at least four earned runs in eight of his 18 starts.

He’s also lost control of the strike zone, walking 44 batters this year. The next most walks by an Angels starter is 29 (Nick Tropeano).

But in his last few starts, Santiago has looked like the All-Star he was last season.

His most recent start came on Thursday, where he pitched 7.0 innings of three-hit ball, allowing no runs and four walks with nine strikeouts, getting the win against the Tampa Bay Rays.

That quality outing came five days after he pitched 6.0 innings in Boston against the Red Sox and allowed an unearned run, four hits and four walks with four strikeouts.

He got the win in that start as well, though it was the Halos offense that starred when they put up a blackjack in a 21-2 romping.

Santiago said that during this successful road trip, his mindset hasn’t really changed.

“I’m just going after guys, attacking them,” Santiago told Jose Mota in the television postgame interview following Thursday’s win. “[I’ve had] a few walks, but overall I attacked them, for the most part. If I got somebody on, the next three guys, I just went right after them.”

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In four of his last five starts, Santiago has given up fewer than one run and no more than four hits, pitching at least six innings in all of those appearances.

And after compiling a 6.75 ERA in May and a 6.08 ERA in June, the sudden rebirth of Santiago’s season couldn’t come at a better time for the Angels.

Since June 5, the Angels have a 10-20 record but are 5-2 when Santiago starts.

His newfound consistency has given the Angels life in an otherwise dead season, and also given them a potential trading chip as the trade deadline approaches.

Santiago’s name was in trade rumors last season as well and this year, along with Yunel Escobar, he is one of the more likely Angels to get moved.

But a curveball that has hit the team is the fact that they are short on starting pitching heading into the end of the year and potentially next season.

Andrew Heaney, C.J. Wilson, and Garrett Richards all have season-ending injuries. Wilson is a free agent that may not return to the team next year while Heaney and Richards will likely not be healthy by Opening Day 2017.

Jered Weaver will also be a free agent and Santiago enters arbitration at the end of this year.

Jhoulys Chacin and Tim Lincecum, who were both in-season acquisitions, will both be free agents by seasons-end as well.

All put together, the Angels will have a tough call to make with Santiago, whom they value in the rotation when he is pitching as well as he has lately, but whom they need to trade sooner than later before his value decreases, if they choose to go that direction.

Next: C.J. Wilson and What Comes Next

“I can’t control that,” he told the Los Angeles Times on Thursday. “I can’t go into the front office and say trade me or don’t trade me. I mean, I could, but it’s not gonna make a difference.”

Time will tell which route the Angels decide to go.

In the meantime, they’ll appreciate his work on the mound as it’s one of the few positive things a team 17.0 games out of the division lead has.

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