Santana strikes out nine, K-Rod gets 61st save as Angels knock off Mariners

SEATTLE -- Ervin Santana's next start could be this weekend. It might be in the first round of the playoffs.

Whenever it is, the Los Angeles Angels right-hander should be brimming with confidence after Monday night.

Santana and Francisco Rodriguez combined for a five-hitter, Vladimir Guerrero homered and the Angels beat the skidding Seattle Mariners 2-1 to set a franchise record for road wins.

Seattle has lost 12 straight games and is two away from tying the franchise record set in 1992.

"This [Santana] is probably the best we've seen from anybody all year in terms of velocity and off-speed stuff," Mariners manager Jim Riggleman said. "You put your measuring stick right there -- that's as good as it gets right there."

Santana (16-6) allowed one run and five hits to match his career high for victories. He struck out nine, walked none and improved to 3-0 with a 2.19 ERA against Seattle this season.

Rodriguez got three outs to extend his major league record for saves to 61 and earn his 10th against the Mariners this year.

Los Angeles, which clinched the AL West title on Sept. 10, is still trying to earn home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Angels (97-59) hold the edge over Tampa Bay (93-62), which beat Baltimore 4-2 on Monday night.

Manager Mike Scioscia said Santana probably will start Saturday if it remains tight into the weekend.

"We'll see where we are," Scioscia said. "These games still have meaning. There's some challenges to the regular season that we want to accomplish. We'll have decisions to make."

The Angels also earned their 48th road win, giving them one more than the previous mark set in 2004. Their 97 victories overall are two short of the club record set by the 2002 team that won the World Series.

The Angels went in front 2-1 in the seventh, taking advantage of an error by left fielder Raul Ibanez. Jeff Mathis reached on a one-out single and Willits followed with a drive into left-center that bounced off Ibanez's glove.

Mathis went to third on Willits' single and scored on Ibanez's miscue.

Seattle loaded the bases with no outs in the third, and only came away with one run. Santana struck out Yuniesky Betancourt before Ibanez's hard grounder to first gave the Mariners a 1-0 lead. Santana then fanned Jose Lopez to end the inning.

"I don't think too much about bases loaded," Santana said. "I take it normal in my mind and say like, 'Nobody's on base' and try to hit my spots."

Scioscia said getting out of that jam allowing only one run was the key.

"He was in command the rest of the way," Scioscia said. "He had a real live fastball, terrific breaking ball and changed speed very well. That was a great game from Ervin."

Guerrero went deep against Ryan Rowland-Smith (4-3) in the fourth, hitting his 25th of the season and career homer No. 390 to move into a tie with Graig Nettles for 49th on the list.

Guerrero, batting .302 on the year, and Alex Rodriguez are the only two active players with 11 straight seasons with at least 25 home runs. If he remains at .300, he'll join Lou Gehrig as the only two players in history to have 25 home runs and hit at least .300 for 11 straight seasons.

"That says it all. When you're mentioned at all with Lou Gehrig in any way, shape or form it puts it into context the type of player you are," Scioscia said. "This guy is as good as any hitter who has ever been in the batter's box playing the game of baseball. He's been fun to watch."

It was Guerrero's 24th career home run against Seattle.

"It was just a changeup, left it up," Rowland-Smith said. "I was trying to bounce it up there. Every time I throw to him I try to throw it way in or bounce it."

Rowland-Smith (4-3) allowed two runs, one earned, and eight hits in seven innings.

Game notes
Angels 2B Howie Kendrick came off the disabled list (strained left hamstring) and played for the first time since Aug. 27. He went just three innings before leaving. Scioscia said he'll rest him Tuesday, then play him five innings Wednesday. ... Guerrero played in his third straight game after missing six games with a sore right knee. Scioscia said he's "markedly improved" from a week ago but added that surgery "is something that Vlade is going to have to consider during the offseason. ... It doesn't mean it's a slam dunk it has to be done. It's up to the player." ... Mariners RHP Carlos Silva, who has had back issues, is expected to make his start Wednesday. "I'm going on the assumption that he's going to pitch," Riggleman said. ... Riggleman met with all his players on the field just before batting practice to stress that despite a tough season it's important to stay focused during this final week. ... Seattle OF Ichiro Suzuki singled in the third inning to extend his hitting streak to 15 games. ... Santana also won 16 games in 2006.