ANAHEIM - Hector Santiago remains winless in six starts to begin his Angels career, after suffering the loss in a 5-2 defeat against the Rangers at Angel Stadium on Friday night. The 26-year-old left-hander is 0-5 with a 5.01 ERA on the year, and 0-7 with a 4.91 ERA in 11 starts dating back to Aug. 24, 2013.
And he really can't catch a break.
"It's definitely been a tough one, a weird one, for my first six starts," Santiago said after getting charged with five runs in six-plus innings against a Rangers team he entered with a 1.98 ERA in 13 2/3 career innings against.
"It'll turn around. You can look forward and you can't get any worse from here. It'll only get better. Go out there next time, and instead of five scoreless go six, seven, eight scoreless. Just definitely have to minimize the mistakes a little bit."
On April 2, Santiago pitched five innings of two-run ball against the Mariners, then gave up back-to-back singles in the sixth, exited with 83 pitches and watched as Fernando Salas allowed both of his runners to score.
On April 8, Santiago struck out Brad Miller with none on and two out in the third, but the Mariners' shortstop reached on a wild pitch and it turned into a four-run inning, thanks to an RBI single from Justin Smoak and a three-run shot by Corey Hart.
On April 14, Santiago pitched a brilliant seven innings of one-run ball against the A's, but Ernesto Frieri gave up the lead on a two-run, ninth-inning homer by John Jaso, giving Santiago his only no-decision of the year.
On April 20, Santiago was charged with only two runs. But one came on a rare three-error play -- on errant throws by Hank Conger, Mike Trout and Santiago himself -- and the other came as Santiago watched Kevin Jepsen give up a sixth-inning RBI single in an eventual 2-1 loss.
On April 26, Santiago gave up three runs in the second in Yankee Stadium on a bases-loaded balk and an ensuing two-run single by J.R. Murphy, the same guy who touched Santiago for a leadoff homer in the fifth.
On Friday, Santiago was cruising through five innings with a 2-0 lead, 12 outs away from his first win of 2014, but Shin-Soo Choo led off the sixth with a homer to straightaway center field, Alex Rios added a two-run shot four batters later and Jepsen allowed both of Santiago's runners to score in the seventh.
"He's pitched better than a guy who's 0-5," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said after a loss that snapped a three-game winning streak, put the Angels back at .500 and marked six straight defeats to Texas, dating back to last year.
"The bottom line is getting us to a point in a game, giving us a chance to win. I think Hector's Achilles' heel right now is really getting into the middle innings and still being able to repeat and make pitches. It seems like his mistakes are coming back to haunt him."
The Rangers had hit only 14 home runs -- the second-lowest total in the Majors -- before getting a couple in one inning off Santiago. And afterwards, the 26-year-old left-hander was still kicking himself over a couple of key turning points in the top of the sixth.
The first was the two-out grounder by Prince Fielder, which would've been a routine 6-3 but became an infield single because of the shift.
"It's my fault," Santiago said. "Maybe I should've busted him in and pitched to the shift."
The second was the 2-1, down-the-middle changeup that Rios hit for what ended up being the game-winning home run.
"Honestly, I didn't want to throw it," Santiago said. "I stepped off, and then I got back on and [Conger] called it again and I was like, 'I'm gonna try to make this good, I'm going to try to get some two-seam run on it, get it out of the zone, get him chasing a little bit,' and it cut. I think I tried to do too much."
Santiago knows Rios from their days with the White Sox together and didn't like the changeup in that situation, especially after also going to it on 1-0. That's why he stepped off. And when he stepped back on the rubber, Conger called it again, "which made me think it was the right pitch," especially since the two had been working so well together all night.
Santiago wishes he would've shaken Conger off, and Conger welcomes it. As Conger said, "The last thing I want a pitcher to do is come to the set second-guessing that pitch" because it could affect the execution of that pitch.
"As catchers, me and Chris [Iannetta] are doing our best job to make sure that we get on the same page [with the pitchers], and I feel like we've been doing a good job of that all year," Conger added. "But at the same time, what we put down is also just a suggestion. At the end of the day, the pitcher is going to have to make the indication to try to say, 'OK, this is the pitch I want, and this is what I want to throw.'"
The Angels' offense scored two runs in 5 2/3 innings off Colby Lewis, on a squeeze by J.B. Shuck and an RBI single by Howie Kendrick. But five Rangers relievers put up zeroes the rest of the way, and now Santiago is 0-5.
He's had the second-worst run support in the Majors (1.83 per start), five of the 18 earned runs he's been charged with have come off a reliever, and a lot of the innings that should've ended have blown up on him.
But he's 0-5 nonetheless.
"An 0-5 start was definitely not what I was expecting," Santiago said. "But who knows. Maybe I'll go 12-5 by going on a little 12-game winning streak right here. It can easily turn around and you won't even remember that it was 0-5. Just go out there and pitch, and it's going to turn around soon."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.