Faulty mechanics send Santiago to short start
ANAHEIM -- As reporters filtered into the Angels' locker room after the team's 9-2 loss to the Blue Jays on Friday night, Hector Santiago was already writing in the small notebook where he keeps track of all the mechanics and techniques that helped make him an All-Star in 2015. A four-walk first inning had necessitated some more entries.
"I've got a bunch in there," Santiago said. "I wrote a bunch in my notes. That's what I was doing right now."
Santiago started the series opener against Toronto at Angel Stadium by striking out Troy Tulowitzki, but it was on a slider that got away from him up and away -- a sign, maybe, of what was to come. Santiago walked Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. After retiring Justin Smoak, he walked Russell Martin with the bases loaded.
The left-hander felt the issues cropping up quickly. The first thing he noticed was that he was landing too far to the first-base side at the end of his delivery.
"I was driving towards first base or their dugout a lot more than usual, so I was getting around the ball," Santiago said, and the tape proved him right. "I came back and looked at that first inning, and I was really closed off once I lifted my leg, instead of straight up-and-down."
Santiago attempted to implement a three-part fix: first, staying tall in his mechanics; second, staying over the rubber; third, driving downhill in his delivery.
"I tried to correct that by staying tall and in my lines," Santiago said, referring to lines he draws in the dirt from both edges of the rubber toward home plate before each inning. They help his momentum stay toward the batter.
"But tonight I was off a lot more than usual, and twisted."
Once he addressed an issue, though, something else would go wrong.
"I definitely knew what I was doing," Santiago said. "I went in there, figured it out, made that adjustment. But then it seemed like I was getting under the ball, and I went and tried to fix that."
No matter what he tried, Santiago couldn't find the strike zone, throwing 48 pitches in the first inning. Santiago said the strength of the Toronto lineup had nothing to do with it; he wasn't painting, he was just missing.
"Hector just lost his release point," manager Mike Scioscia said.
That first inning dictated the rest of Santiago's short night, which ended after 3 2/3 innings, four runs and 95 pitches. Santiago said he hoped the Angels would give him 130 to 140 pitches, so he could make up for what his mechanical issues cost him in the first inning, but he knew he wasn't going to get them.
"Forty-eight pitches, man," Santiago said. "That's 3 1/2 innings worth of pitches right there in that first inning. It's hard to come back from that."