Coming off a short, forgettable outing in his last game, Santana pitched into the ninth inning of a 3-0 victory over Oakland on Thursday night as Los Angeles drew even with the Athletics atop the AL West.
The 22-year-old Santana, rocked for seven runs and 10 hits in 3 2/3 innings of a 12-8 loss to Tampa Bay six days before, was asked how he felt going into the game against the division-leading A's.
"Confident and ready to win," he said, grinning and nodding his head after beating Oakland for the second time in three starts this season.
The right-hander held the A's to six hits, with four strikeouts and no walks in 8 1/3 innings. He retired 12 straight in the middle innings, then finally left the game after allowing a one-out single by Eric Chavez in the ninth.
"I wanted to keep them off-balance and keep the ball down," Santana said.
Oakland manager Ken Macha was impressed.
"He has a good, live fastball, a changeup and a hard breaking ball," Macha said.
Robb Quinlan hit a solo home run off Joe Kennedy (3-1) in the fourth inning after Bengie Molina singled home a run in the third. Vladimir Guerrero added a run in the eighth when he went to third on a double steal and came home on catcher Jason Kendall's throwing error.
Francisco Rodriguez got two outs for his 32nd save in 37 chances.
Santana (8-6) has shown a tendency to come back strong after a bad performance. He threw a shutout in his second major-league game, a 4-0 win over the Chicago White Sox on May 23, after giving up six runs in four innings of a 13-5 loss at Cleveland in his debut.
"He's been able to bounce back from tough starts," Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's been on a little bit of a learning curve, and is getting it. That was a terrific job tonight."
The win in the finale of the three-game series was Los Angeles' second straight. The teams meet again in a four-game set at Oakland from Sept. 26-29.
The series was marked by outstanding pitching on both sides, with the teams combining for only nine runs.
"It appeared to me that they pitched us fastballs away the whole series," Macha said. "(Bartolo) Colon did it, Santana did it and (John) Lackey did it, for the most part.
"We have to make an adjustment. The pitching remained constant - for both teams. "
Oakland's Bobby Kielty said the teams match up well.
"It was a great series. We felt like we definitely had momentum going into it, but they came back and beat us twice," Kielty said. "It's funny how a 162-game season turns into a 29-game season now.
"We have five teams going for two spots. It's going to go right down to the wire. But there's no doubt in my mind that we're the better team."
Kennedy was filling in for Rich Harden, sidelined by a muscle strain in his right side. Kennedy gave up two runs and seven hits in six innings.
The Angels' first run came after a disputed play. With Figgins on first base, Orlando Cabrera hit a soft liner that second baseman Mark Ellis dropped. Ellis quickly picked up the ball and rushed to second to try to start a double play. Umpires, however, ruled that Ellis had dropped the ball on purpose, so Cabrera was declared out and Figgins returned to first base.
Figgins went to third on Anderson's single and scored on Molina's hit.
- Scioscia earned his 500th victory, but was booed when he took Santana out in the ninth.
- Rodriguez pitched in all three games, getting a loss in the opener and saves in the final two.
- Despite Harden's physical woes, the A's don't plan to use any of their starters -- not even Barry Zito -- on three days' rest, even though the pennant race is down to the final month. Macha said the A's "have a whole bunch of guys who are pitching pretty good right now."
- Scioscia said he and pitching coach Bud Black will weigh whether to use RHPs Colon and Lackey on short rest as this month unfolds. "We certainly want to give Bart and Lackey as many starts as possible, they're the guys who are pitching well," Scioscia said.
- Los Angeles RHP Kelvim Escobar is scheduled to throw 75 pitches on Friday as he continues his rehab from surgery to remove a bone spur in his right elbow. Scioscia said he expects Escobar to help the Angels before the season is over.