June 29, 2016

Partly sunny

Ervin Santana figures it out: First win in 7 years vs. Tribe is a no-hitter

CLEVELAND — After seven seasons of struggling against the Cleveland Indians, Ervin Santana’s first win at Progressive Field was one for the record books.

Angels starting pitcher Ervin Santana (54) celebrates with his teammates after pitching a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians Wednesday in Cleveland. (AP photo.)

Angels starting pitcher Ervin Santana (54) celebrates with his teammates after pitching a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians Wednesday in Cleveland. (AP photo.)

Santana threw the ninth no-hitter in Los Angeles Angels history Wednesday, striking out 10 in a 3-1 win over the Indians.

“I was able to throw everything today,” Santana said. “My fastball, my curve, even my change-up. I was able to locate all of my pitches.”

The 28-year-old right-hander retired 22 hitters in a row after Ezequiel Carrera led off the game by reaching base on an error by Los Angeles shortstop Erick Aybar.

“What Ervin did today was special,” said Angels manager Mike Scioscia, a former big league catcher who caught no-hitters by Fernando Valenzuela and Kevin Gross as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1980s. “You have to appreciate it even more because he was pitching under pressure in a tight ball game. He had command of his fastball and his breaking ball got sharper as the game went on.

“Every no-hitter is different, but the feeling is the same. There is that special excitement.”

Santana, who is now 6-8 in 2011 and has a career record of 82-64, said he didn’t really start thinking about a no-hitter until the seventh or eighth inning. But he won’t soon forget the feeling when he saw Los Angeles centerfielder Peter Bourjos snag the final out, a fly ball off the bat of Michael Brantley.

“Excitement,” Santana said. “I was proud of our performance today.”

It was the first no-hitter by an Angels pitcher since Mark Langston and Mike Witt combined to no-hit Seattle on April 11, 1990. The last individual no-hitter tossed by an Angels pitcher occurred on the final day of the 1984 season when Mike Witt pitched the only perfect game in franchise history, defeating Texas 1-0.

Wednesday also marked the first time a no-hitter was thrown at Progressive Field since its opening in 1994. The last time Cleveland was no-hit was Sept. 4, 1993, when the New York Yankees’ Jim Abbott held the Tribe hitless at Yankee Stadium.

As special as the day was for Santana, his catcher Bobby Wilson was just as excited about being part of history.

“This is what we all (as catchers) work for every day of our careers to be part of this,” said Wilson, who also caught a no-hitter in Triple-A with the Sacramento River Cats. “All of the time we spend in spring training getting to know the pitchers, this is what it’s all about.”

Santana is 3-0 in the month of July after going 0-4 in June, but Scioscia said Santana has pitched better then his record would indicate.

However, Santana had never previously had success against the Tribe, coming into the game with a career mark of 0-6 with a 4.98 ERA. He made his major league debut at Progressive Field on May 17, 2005, allowing six runs in four innings.

“Ervin has matured as a pitcher since that first start,” Scioscia said. “The biggest difference is his command. Back then he was throwing the ball over the heart of the plate, now he has command of the plate.”

That command was evident Wednesday as Santana threw 76 of his 105 pitches for strikes. He only allowed one walk, to Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall in the eighth inning.

Angels right fielder Torii Hunter said he saw something special Wednesday as he watched Santana work.

“I’ve seen him pitch a lot, he has thrown a lot of good games,” Hunter said. “But this was the best stuff he’s ever had.”

Santana has the distinction of being the first pitcher to toss a non-shutout no-hitter since Houston’s Darryl Kyle in 1993 against the New York Mets. The Indians scored their run in the first inning when Carrera scored on a wild pitch.

Cleveland only hit four balls out of the infield against Santana.

The closest the Indians got to a base hit was in the sixth inning when Jason Kipnis led off the inning with a hard grounder that Los Angeles second baseman Howie Kendrick dove to stop. Kendrick’s throw to Mark Trumbo at first just beat Kipnis.

Santana gave much of the credit for the no-hitter to Wilson.

“Me and Bobby were on the same page,” Santana said. “I just kept my mind on Bobby’s glove and focused in.”

It was the third no-hitter in the American League this season. Minnesota’s Francisco Liriano and Detroit’s Justin Verlander each threw no-hitters in a five-day span in early May.

Santana has the chance to join a more elite group in his next start. In 1938, Johnny Vander Meer became the only pitcher in MLB history to throw back-to-back no-hitters, when, as a member of the Cincinnati Reds, he no-hit the Boston Bees and the Brooklyn Dodgers in consecutive starts.

Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.