CLEVELAND – Sharp from his first pitch, Ervin Santana came full cycle against the Cleveland Indians.
Santana threw the first solo no-hitter for the Angels in nearly 27 years and exacted some long overdue revenge, leading Los Angeles over the Indians 3-1 Wednesday.
This was the first no-hitter at Progressive Field, a ballpark that opened as Jacobs Field in 1994. And it marked quite a bit of role reversal for the 28-year-old righty.
Santana made his big league debut on this very same field on May 17, 2005, and the Indians gave him a rude welcome. The first four batters he faced in the majors teamed up to hit for the cycle — Grady Sizemore led off with a triple, Coco Crisp doubled, Travis Hafner singled and Ben Broussard homered.
Asked to recall that rough outing, Santana smiled and shrugged.
"It's part of life," he said. "We're here today, we don't know tomorrow."
Santana struck out and 10 and allowed only two runners — there was an error on the leadoff batter in the first inning and a walk in the eighth. Just once was Santana's gem in jeopardy and second baseman Howie Kendrick's nifty play saved it in the sixth.
This was the third no-hitter in the major leagues this season, yet another sign that this, indeed, is another Year of the Pitcher. Minnesota's Francisco Liriano did it against the Chicago White Sox on May 3 and Detroit ace Justin Verlander beat Toronto on May 7.
Santana (6-8) was certainly hot in Cleveland this time while throwing the Angels' first complete-game no-hitter since Mike Witt pitched a perfect game on Sept. 30, 1984, against Texas. Mark Langston (7 innings) and Witt (2 innings) combined to hold Seattle hitless on April 11, 1990.
Santana said he began to think a no-hitter was within reach after he got through the eighth.
"Lots of guys get to five, six innings, but that's when things get a little complicated," Santana said.
He would know. Because in his last start, Santana took a no-hit bid into the sixth inning against Baltimore.
Overall, it was the ninth no-hitter in Angels' history. Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan threw four of them from 1973 through 1975. The last pitcher to hold the Indians hitless was Jim Abbott of the New York Yankees on Sept. 4, 1993.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia vividly remembered Santana's major league debut, too. When a postgame interviewer started to quiz Santana about that day, Scioscia playfully interrupted.
"Do we have to talk about that one?" Scioscia said.
"His command is like night and day," he said. In that first game, Scioscia said, "those guys were teeing off on him. He used that start as a stepping board."
Still, Santana hadn't done much better against the Indians since then. He came into this outing 0-6 with a 4.98 ERA in 10 career starts versus them.
"I never get a win against this team," he said.
"I've been pitching good against them," he said. "I just didn't have any luck, but I got it today."
The closest Cleveland got to a hit came when rookie Jason Kipnis led off the sixth with a grounder past Santana. Kendrick made a diving, backhand stop, threw from his knees and first baseman Mark Trumbo scooped out the low throw for the out.
"I knew the situation. We all did," Kendrick said. "I wanted to get to that ball and at least knock it down. I was happy to play a part."
"It's my first no-hitter, too," he said. "What a day. I had goosebumps walking off the field."
Santana threw 105 pitches, 76 for strikes. He had 0-2 counts nine times.
The Dominican pitcher said he was pretty loose for much of the afternoon. He kept talking to his teammates in the dugout, not worrying about breaking any superstitions.
"I was goofing around, talking to them. Around the seventh or eighth, it got a little more intense," he said.
Said Scioscia: "It's anything but tension."
"There was excitement. When you see a guy get within nine outs, then six outs, then three outs ... your focus is winning the game, but past that, you're looking for that cherry on top, which Ervin delivered. It was fun to watch."
The crowd of 21,546, many on extended lunch hours for the noontime start, cheered loudly when Lonnie Chisenhall walked with one out in the eighth. Otherwise, the fans nervously sat in expectation of watching history.
Santana quickly took care of business in the bottom of the ninth. He got pinch-hitter Travis Buck to look at strike three, retired the speedy Ezequiel Carrera on a routine grounder and ended it by inducing Michael Brantley to lift an easy fly ball to center fielder Peter Bourjos.
"He was on, we weren't," Brantley said. "It's disappointing we didn't win the game. We'll just say congratulations to him and move on."
The Angels rushed from the dugout to mob Santana behind the mound. Along with a game for the record books, it was an important win for Los Angeles as it chases Texas in the AL West.
The win was only his third in 11 starts since May 30. He lost four in a row, June 4-21, but is 3-0 in six starts since. Last Friday, he gave up one run and three hits over 7 2-3 innings in a 6-1 win over the Orioles.
Angels catcher Bobby Wilson said Santana "attacked every hitter."
"He didn't take a pitch off. It's the most fun I've ever had on the baseball field, I'll tell you that much," he said.
"He shook me off a couple times and that's OK. I want a pitcher to have confidence in what he's going to throw rather than flip something up there that he doesn't believe in."
Against the Indians, Santana looked a lot more like the pitcher who went 17-10 last season.
"He was good, really good," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "We've see guys throw harder, with good breaking balls, too. A lot of times in no-hitters, you have to have good stuff. That doesn't mean necessarily best stuff. He was terrific today."
Santana got off to an ominous start as Carrera reached when his grounder glanced off the heel of shortstop Erick Aybar's glove. Carrera stole second, went to third on a groundout and scored on a wild pitch.
Chisenhall's walk was the lone blemish in the eighth as Santana struck out three in the inning. in the eighth — when he struck out the side.
Neither team got a hit until Vernon Wells led off the Angels fourth with a bloop single. Los Angeles tied it at 1 in the fifth when Bourjos tripled off the wall in left and scored on a sacrifice fly by Mike Trout.
The Angels went ahead in the sixth on an odd passed ball by catcher Carlos Santana.
Torii Hunter doubled and went to third on a one-out single by Kendrick. After Mark Trumbo struck out, right-hander Joe Smith relieved David Huff (1-1) and Kendrick took off for second on a 1-1 pitch. Santana came out of his crouch to get the pitch, which was called a strike by umpire Ted Barrett, but the ball popped out of his glove and rolled down the first-base line. The young catcher scrambled after it and threw to Smith covering the plate, but Hunter slid in ahead of the tag to score the unearned run.
NOTES: Huff is 0-3 in his career against the Angels. ... Bourjos' triple snapped an 0-for-11 slump since he came off the disabled list. ... RHP Justin Germano, who opened the season in the Indians' bullpen, threw a perfect game Tuesday night for Triple-A Columbus. It was his first win since being sent outright to the Clippers. He struck out seven. ... The last no-hitter against the Indians in Cleveland was Toronto's Dave Stieb on Sept. 2, 1990. This was the 12th no-hitter overall against the Indians. ... The last non-shutout no-hitter in the majors was by Houston's Darryl Kile against the New York Mets on Sept. 8, 1993. ... The Angels do not officially get credit for holding the Los Angeles Dodgers hitless for eight innings in a 1-0 loss at Dodger Stadium on June 28, 2008. Jered Weaver went six innings and Jose Arredondo went two innings. ... This was Santana's 11th career complete game, including two this season.