Joe Saunders thought he was only giving a pep talk to an old friend, encouraging him to keep working through a dismal stretch of the season.
He didn't really anticipate Ervin Santana turning that advice into a one-hitter that spoiled both Saunders' return to Angel Stadium and his birthday.
Santana took a perfect game into the seventh inning, and Mark Trumbo hit a two-run homer in the Los Angeles Angels' 2-0 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday night.
Saunders (4-5) allowed eight hits in six innings while facing the Angels for the first time since they traded him to Arizona in 2010. Saunders mostly kept pace with Santana, his longtime teammate and good friend, after Trumbo's first-inning shot, but the Diamondbacks were shut out for the third time in 11 games, getting only Justin Upton's two-out single in the seventh.
Saunders and Santana came up together through the Angels' farm system, both reaching the majors for the first time in 2005 and pitching in the same rotation for 4½ years. They even made the AL All-Star team together in 2008.
"I talked to him (Friday) and said, 'Keep your head up, keep doing your thing,'" said Saunders, pitching on his 31st birthday. "I guess I had some real good advice. He really had it going."
Santana (4-7) bounced back from several rough outings by retiring Arizona's first 20 hitters. The Dominican right-hander retired the next five Diamondbacks after Upton's hit before pinch-hitter Miguel Montero drew a four-pitch walk in the ninth.
Santana finished up his first complete game of the season with two fly balls, getting another standing ovation.
"That was very good — very, very good," Santana said. "When you pass the sixth and nothing is happening, you have to think about it a little bit, but you just have to re-focus and keep pitching, and that's what I did."
And how: After Upton's hit, Santana comfortably completed his seventh career shutout and 14th complete game. With the 18th individual one-hitter in club history, Santana joined Nolan Ryan as the only pitchers to throw a no-hitter and a one-hitter for the Angels.
"It just felt like no matter what (fingers) I put down, they weren't going to hit it," said John Hester, the Angels' backup catcher. "It was hard not to think about (a perfect game), because you could tell he was throwing something special tonight."
Staked to a lead by Trumbo's 15th homer in the first, Santana had allowed nothing even close to a hit before Upton's clean single back up the middle. The Angel Stadium crowd of 42,483 responded with a standing ovation for a pitcher who bounced back from a lousy four-game stretch with a start that nearly equaled his no-hitter last July 27 in Cleveland.
"(Santana) had everything working," Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said. "The early homer by Trumbo gave him confidence. Joe pitched a great game for us, battled his tail off, and really only made one mistake."
Howie Kendrick and Torii Hunter had three hits apiece for the Angels, who won for the sixth time in eight games despite stranding 10 runners and failing to score after the first inning. Their 17th victory in 23 games moves them back to a season-best four games over .500.
Just three days after San Francisco's Matt Cain threw the 22nd perfect game in major league history, Santana got within seven batters of the sixth no-hitter and third perfect game in a season that isn't even half over yet. The Angels already had their first no-hitter in 21 years when Jered Weaver blanked Minnesota on May 2.
Trumbo connected on a full-count curveball from Saunders, putting it into the bullpen behind the left-field wall.
"It was a battle for me," Saunders said. "I didn't think it was a bad pitch, just the wrong pitch."
Saunders settled down for a strong effort in his first start in Anaheim since the Angels traded their former first-round pick in 2010. Saunders started 115 games and earned 54 wins over parts of six seasons with the Angels before he left with three other players in a deal for right-hander Dan Haren, who also lost his first reunion start against Arizona on Friday night.
NOTES: Weaver will throw 30-40 pitches in a bullpen session Sunday as he moves closer to a return from the disabled list. ... Jerry Dipoto, the interim Arizona general manager who acquired Saunders, now runs the Angels. ... RHP Ian Kennedy takes the mound in Sunday's series finale against Angels youngster Garrett Richards.