Santiago thriving when pressure is on
ANAHEIM -- Hector Santiago -- after helping lead the Angels to an 11-1 win in the first game of their doubleheader against the Red Sox on Monday -- recalled giving up a double to Prince Fielder leading off an inning. Santiago looked at Fielder standing on second base and told him, "You're not scoring."
That hit came in the fourth inning on Aug. 2, 2013, when Santiago was with the White Sox and Fielder with the Tigers. Santiago didn't mention this part, though: Fielder scored.
In 2015, that would be an aberration. Very few hitters who get on base against Santiago are scoring. The left-hander, who lowered his ERA to 2.30 -- third-best in the American League -- with his five innings of one-run, 10-strikeout baseball Monday, has held opposing hitters to a .153 batting average (11-for-72) when runners are in scoring position.
That actually includes a pair of hits with runners in scoring position by the Red Sox on Monday. But Santiago also pitched out of a pair of one-out jams -- two runners on in the first inning and bases loaded in the fourth -- by getting big strikeouts, two straight to end each inning.
"I'm confident in those situations. I know that I can get the guys out," Santiago said. "They got on because I wasn't trying to strike everybody out."
He said he pitches more to contact with the bases empty -- willing to locate his pitches middle-in or middle-away -- but he goes to the edges of the strike zone with runners on.
"Guys on base, you're just trying to get corners, trying to get black, under the zone -- [where pitches] start as a strike but go strike to ball," Santiago said.
All that success, though, might be unsustainable over the course of a full season. Santiago's .153 batting average against with runners in scoring position is far below the Major League average of .254 entering play Monday (per Baseball-Reference.com). Santiago could be due for a regression toward the mean.
"A lot is cyclical," manager Mike Scioscia said. "The law of averages says that, hey, he's getting out of some trouble and pitching well, and hopefully it will continue. Our goal with Hector is for him to stay a step ahead of trouble and avert it. When guys get on base, he has ability to get the strikeout, the popup, and he's doing it. He's pitching ahead in the count more than he has, and it's showing in his performance."