After a first half that made it hard to believe he could stick as a major league starter, Hector Santiago's performance since rejoining the Los Angeles Angels' rotation has made that notion disappear.
The hot-hitting Angels are hoping his latest start was a mere hiccup as they try to extend their winning streak to six Tuesday night in the opener of a three-game road set with the lowly Texas Rangers.Garrett Richards' season-ending knee injury on Aug. 20 put the pressure on an unproven Angels rotation to step up and help maintain their slim AL West lead, and that's something Santiago (4-7, 3.46 ERA) started doing even before Richards went down.The left-hander went 1-7 with a 4.72 ERA in his 12 first-half starts but is 1-0 with a 2.28 ERA in his eight since the All-Star break even after a rough outing Thursday at Minnesota. He allowed four runs and a season-high eight hits over five innings and left without a decision as Los Angeles won 5-4.Santiago has gone 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA in three starts versus Texas this season after surrendering one run over six innings before Huston Street blew a ninth-inning lead in a 3-2 loss Aug. 17.That defeat ended the Angels' nine-game winning streak against the Rangers, leaving them 10-3 in the season series. Los Angeles, which owns a big lead in the AL West, has won 20 of 26 overall following Monday's 12-3 win at Cleveland.Albert Pujols, Kole Calhoun, David Freese and Howie Kendrick all homered in the makeup game for the MLB-best Angels (88-55), who have averaged 9.2 runs during a season-best five-game road winning streak."It's been two pretty good days for us, even with everything going on," Calhoun told MLB's official website. "Any inning, our offense can explode, which is what makes it so much fun to be a part of."The Rangers will try to post rare back-to-back wins -- something they've done just twice since late June -- after they ended a season high-tying eight-game slide Sunday. They also gave interim manager Tim Bogar his first victory by beating Seattle 1-0.Slugger Adrian Beltre drove in the only run for the Rangers, and is hitting .405 in his last 11 games versus Los Angeles.MLB-worst Texas (54-89), which has averaged 1.9 runs over its last nine games, likely can't afford another poor showing offensively with Colby Lewis (9-12, 5.42) on the mound.The right-hander surrendered a club-record 13 runs and 13 hits over 2 1/3 innings while opposing Santiago on July 10 before giving up five runs over six innings in a 5-4 home loss to the Angels on Aug. 16."It doesn't matter what team I am facing," Lewis said ahead of his latest look at Los Angeles. "I still have to execute my pitches and do my job. This is the fourth time I've faced them this year, so I should have a pretty good feel for them."Lewis, who is pitching on seven days' rest, has gone 0-4 with a 5.86 ERA in five starts with six-plus days of rest.Calhoun is 5 for 7 with a triple and two doubles off him this season, while Josh Hamilton has three doubles in five at-bats. Kendrick and Pujols are both 4 for 7 with a home run.Hamilton, however, is day to day after missing four straight games with a sore shoulder.