A's can do little against Halos' Santana

A's bats can do little against Halos

OAKLAND -- When asked before Saturday's matchup against the Angels if there was any rhyme or reason to his team's nine consecutive series-opening victories, manager Bob Geren replied, "There's no answer to that."

So it's safe to say the skipper would say the same when hearing that, of those nine series, the A's have gone on to drop seven of the second matchups -- including Saturday's 4-1 loss to the Angels at McAfee Coliseum.

Just one night after taking batting practice off Angels pitchers in a 9-2 rout, the A's offense was completely missing in action Saturday. Subsequently, so was the usual celebratory Metallica music played in the Oakland clubhouse after just about every victory.

It was a textbook game that just didn't go the A's way. Instead, they were left watching Ervin Santana dominate ... again. The hard-throwing Angels starter pitched seven innings of shutout ball, only twice allowing Oakland runners in scoring position while walking two and striking out a season-high 10. He improved his career record against the A's to 9-1 and his mark at McAfee Coliseum to 4-0.

"He's tough on us, that's for sure," Geren said. "He has one of the better fastballs in the league and has good control of it."

When Santana exited the game, he had thrown 111 pitches, marking the 17th time in 19 starts this season he has gone over the 100-pitch mark.

"Every year they have different players on their team. They are good players. I just go out there and try to do my best," Santana said in trying to explain his success against Oakland. "I don't think about it. I just go out there and try to pitch."

Besides the lack of offense, the A's really didn't do anything poorly -- they just didn't do anything great, either. Starter Dana Eveland pitched well in 5 2/3 innings, giving up two runs on five hits with five strikeouts. The left-hander, though, also walked five -- the first resulting in the first run of the game on a wild pitch in the opening frame. A base hit and another walk gave way to an RBI single by Howie Kendrick to make it a 2-0 affair.

"I've had a few rough first innings," Eveland said. "I don't know what it is. I've got to figure out a way to get out of that first inning."

It was the third straight outing in which the A's southpaw had trouble in the opening frame, but Eveland said he may have found a solution for the early woes, despite the uncertainty of the reason behind them.

"I toned it down to about 80 percent and my off-speed stuff still had real good location," he said of his later innings. "I didn't have great fastball command and that killed me. But toning it down worked well, and I was pretty pleased once I did that.

"I'm thinking that may be the answer for me."

While Eveland didn't provide much motivation for the A's offense after the first, Geren applauded his pitcher for "keeping us in the game."

"He had a real good slider-type curveball going in the dirt," the skipper said. "Ervin was just better."

The box score showed it all, as Donnie Murphy, Carlos Gonzalez, Emil Brown, Mark Ellis and Daric Barton grabbed just one hit apiece against the right-hander. Only two of them, though, came in the same inning.

"He was throwing a lot of breaking balls and sliders to keep you off-balance," Ellis said. "It's just the way he pitches."

Relievers Santiago Casilla and Huston Street each surrendered a run of their own to give the Angels four on the night, while the only noise coming from the Oakland side came in the eighth thanks to Gonzalez's RBI double -- his second double of the game -- off relief pitcher Scot Shields.

Another rare bright spot coming came from reliever Brad Ziegler, who tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings to extend his career-opening scoreless streak to 20 1/3 frames, an ongoing Oakland record.

Oakland will look to conclude the series -- and the final game before the All-Star break -- on an even brighter tale.

"It would be a good game to win," Ellis said. "By no means are we out of it if we don't win, but it would be a nice going into the break on that note."

Jane Lee is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.