Santana returns to winning form

DETROIT – Ervin Santana knew he had to be patient as he recovered from an elbow injury that cost him the first six weeks of the season.

Friday, that patience paid off.

Santana didn’t allow a run until the ninth inning and posted his first win of the season as the Los Angeles Angels beat Detroit, 2-1.

“Ervin answered a lot of questions with a resounding ‘yes’ tonight,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He’s been through a lot this year, so this was big for him.”

Santana (1-2) picked up his first win since Sept. 22, after allowing 15 runs in his previous two outings. He improved to 4-0 against Detroit since the start of 2008 by allowing six hits and two walks in 82/3 innings, striking out seven.

“I wasn’t worried, because I knew things weren’t going to be perfect coming back from injury,” said Santana, who went 16-7 with a 3.49 ERA last season. “I’m always happy to be out there, but today was even better than usual.”

The game was scoreless after eight innings, but Torii Hunter and Kendry Morales started the ninth with singles off Fernando Rodney (0-1). Juan Rivera fouled off six pitches before poking a single to right through the drawn-in infield for the game’s first run.

“I just wanted to get the ball up in the air and over the infield,” Rivera said through an interpreter. “He was throwing me changeups and high fastballs, and I just kept fouling them off until I got one I could hit.”

After Erick Aybar’s sacrifice bunt, Howie Kendrick’s groundout made it 2-0.

Magglio Ordoñez hit an RBI single in the ninth, but Angels closer Brian Fuentes replaced Santana and got Curtis Granderson to hit a foul pop behind third that Chone Figgins caught before tumbling into the stands. It was Fuentes’ 15th save in 18 tries.

“Everyone in the dugout was trying to suck that back into play,” Scioscia said. “Luckily, Figgy got to it and made a great play.”

Justin Verlander nearly matched Santana, throwing eight shutout innings one day after becoming the AL Pitcher of the Month for May. Verlander is 6-0 with a 1.12 ERA in his last eight starts. He didn’t come out for the ninth after throwing 119 pitches.

“He was tremendous tonight – it’s a shame he didn’t get a win,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said after the Tigers fell to 0-4 on their homestand. “It’s also a shame we didn’t get a win.”