<
>

Santana can't recreate mound magic in loss

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Rookie Ervin Santana couldn't get key
outs, and the Los Angeles Angels couldn't get key hits.

So now, the Angels are in a 3-1 hole in the AL Championship
Series.

Santana pitched 5 1/3 strong innings in relief of injured ace
Bartolo Colon in the Angels' victory over New York last Monday
night in the deciding game of the AL Division Series.

But the White Sox got to the 22-year-old right-hander early in
Game 4 of the ALCS, taking the lead for good on Paul Konerko's
three-run homer in the first and going on to an 8-2 victory
Saturday night.

"I go out there and try to do my best. They beat me," Santana
said. "After the first inning, I got my command."

By that time, it was too late.

Regarding Konerko, Santana said: "He's a professional hitter. I
tried to make my pitches. He just hit it."

Santana thought Konerko went around on a 2-2 pitch that first
base umpire Ed Rapuano ruled a checked swing.

"I thought it was a strike. That's up to the umpires," Santana
said.

Konerko homered on the next pitch.

The Angels managed only two runs and six hits off Freddy Garcia,
giving them eight runs and 22 hits in the series. Garcia followed
up the outstanding efforts of White Sox starters Jose Contreras,
Mark Buehrle and Jon Garland with one of his own.

"Very obviously, they've pitched well -- not making mistakes,
living on the corners," Angels cleanup hitter Garret Anderson
said.

Paul Byrd, who pitched six effective innings in a 3-2 victory in
the opener, tries to keep the Angels alive Sunday against
Contreras, the loser in Game 1.

The Angels haven't won since that game. Now, they can't afford
another loss.

"We need to obviously do more on the offensive end and pitch to
the point where we get some of our bullpen guys in the game at the
right time," manager Mike Scioscia said, adding that a most
positive aspect of the Angels' situation is they're only a
three-game winning streak away from playing in the World Series.

Santana, who pitched a five-hit shutout against the White Sox on
May 23 in his second big league start, lasted only 4 1/3 innings in
this game, allowing six runs on three hits, three walks and a hit
batsman.

He had problems from the start, walking leadoff hitter Scott
Podsednik after getting ahead 0-2, and hitting Tadahito Iguchi with
a pitch.

After Jermaine Dye flied to deep center to move the runners to
second and third, Konerko hit Santana's 18th pitch over the
left-center field fence, making it two straight games that he
homered on a full-count pitch in the first. His two-run shot on
John Lackey's 12th pitch Saturday night also gave the White Sox a
3-0 lead and they went on to a 5-2 victory.

By the time the first inning was over, Santana had thrown 34
pitches -- 27 more than Garcia needed to retire the Angels in their
half of the first.

Santana was later charged with three more runs, two earned. One
of the runs came on a solo homer to center by A.J. Pierzynski in
the fourth.

Santana, 12-8 with a 4.65 ERA during the season, pitched 6 2/3
strong innings Sept. 27 when the Angels beat Oakland 4-3 to clinch
their second straight AL West championship. He didn't work against
the Yankees until the 5-3 victory in the final game of the division
series, and is filling Colon's spot against the White Sox.

Leadoff hitter Chone Figgins went 0-for-4 to make him 1-for-14
with one walk in the series.

That's no way to start a rally.

"Nobody feels this harder than Figgy, and nobody tries harder
than Figgy and that's probably part of the reason for him banging
his head against the wall is he doesn't know how to back down,"
Scioscia said.

Figgins said he hasn't changed his approach.

"It's part of baseball," he said of his slump. "We've got
another game to play. We're going to go out and play hard like we
do every day."

Hitting coach Mickey Hatcher said he doesn't believe the Angels
look comfortable at the plate. Maybe that explains why they've hit
very few balls hard in the last three games.

"I don't have answers for it," Hatcher said. "I just don't
see a confidence level. They're playing hard, they're competing.
Everything's fine. Right now, we're just not clicking in the game.
It's happened to our team a lot."

It's happening now at the worst possible time.

Vladimir Guerrero, Anderson and Bengie Molina, the Angels' three
best hitters during the season, are a combined 5-for-44 with three
RBI.

Guerrero, the reigning AL MVP, was booed after grounding to
short to open the fourth. He went hitless in four at-bats and is
now 1-for-16. Anderson was 1-for-4 and is 2-for-15, and Molina was
1-for-3 and is 2-for-13.