Ervin Santana takes aim at win No. 1 this evening when the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim open a three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.
Santana has been miserable in the early going, losing all three of his starts, while posting a 6.75 earned run average. His latest setback came on Wednesday against Oakland, which reached him for four runs and seven hits in seven innings.
The Angels, though, have been shut out in Santana's last two starts and have managed just three runs for him this season.
"I think he's right that it's fastball command. With Ervin, it's not that big of an adjustment to find it," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "At times, it's all connected with your delivery. At times there's going to be issues with trying to get the ball where you want to.
"His stuff is good. At times he gets away with a little bit of command issues if he's not locating exactly where he wants to because he has such a fastball/breaking ball combination."
Santana is 5-5 lifetime versus the Rays with a 5.23 ERA in 12 starts.
Tampa, meanwhile, will counter with lefty David Price, who is 2-1 with a 4.20 ERA. Price bounced back from his first loss of the season to defeat the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday, holding them to a pair of runs and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings.
"If you can go out there and have a good outing, and dominate a team, especially a team that we're going to be facing [a lot, as] in the Angels, or Texas, or the Yankees or Red Sox. It does a lot for your confidence," said Price.
Price has faced the Angels six times and is 2-2 with a 4.37 ERA against them.
Tampa enters tonight's series on the heels of taking two of three from the Minnesota Twins. In Sunday's rubber match, Desmond Jennings hit a two-run homer, Jeff Niemann didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning and the Rays defeated the Twins, 6-2. Jennings finished with three runs batted in and B.J. Upton added a pair of RBI for Tampa Bay, which has won five of its last seven games.
Niemann (1-2) lasted 5 1/3 innings and was charged with two runs on three hits and two walks in the win.
"Everything felt pretty good," said Niemann. "I was throwing a lot of strikes with the fastball and I threw enough off-speed to keep them off balance."
Los Angeles also picked up a series win over the weekend, but was denied a sweep of Baltimore on Sunday when the Orioles salvaged the finale in 10 innings, 3-2.
Angels starter Dan Haren pitched well, but didn't factor in the decision and is still searching for his first win of the year after allowing two runs on six hits and one walk with nine punchouts over 7 1/3 innings.
"Dan (Haren) pitched a gem. He really pitched well and maintained his stuff throughout and unfortunately we just couldn't give him enough support offensively," Scioscia said.
The Angels split eight meetings with the Rays last season.