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OAK@LAA: Santana strikes out five over seven frames

ANAHEIM -- Make what you want of the first 12 games of this much-anticipated Angels season. It is, in fact, only 7.4 percent of the 162-game marathon. But it has also brought upon some rather surprising numbers:

0: That one stands for a lot. Like the number of series the Angels will win through their first four, now that they absorbed a Wednesday night 6-0 loss to the Athletics and can only split the four-game series. Or the number of home runs Albert Pujols has hit to start his 10-year tenure with the Angels. Or the number of save chances for closer Jordan Walden, who gave up two runs in Wednesday's ninth inning while making just his third appearance of the season.

10: That's the number of lineup combinations already used by manager Mike Scioscia, who's still trying to get a feel for how he'll use his deep slate of position players.

38: Not the age, but the number of consecutive strikes Bartolo Colon dared to throw against Angels hitters while delivering eight masterful no-run, no-walk innings.

4: That's the number of wins the Angels now have.

6: That's the number of games the Angels already trail the Rangers by in the American League West.

In the end, it's just 12 games. But it's not a good 12 games.

"I think some guys are getting swallowed up with trying to do too much," Scioscia said. "And it's not about one guy or a group of guys. It's about a team. It's about not only nine guys playing, but the guys on the bench that are going to be needed throughout the season. And that chemistry needs to keep moving forward. And I think right now that guys are trying to feel for some things."

But the word "panic," or any of its synonyms, is in no way being thrown around the Angels' clubhouse -- a clubhouse that saw the 2009 team go 4-8 before winning 97 games, or that saw the '02 team start out 6-14 before reaching World Series glory.

"I refuse to say that," veteran outfielder Torii Hunter said. "We don't press. We're Major League Baseball players. That's why we're here. We're competitors. We don't press. We love pressure. It just ain't going right."

But Ervin Santana -- who gave up three early runs and settled down, but still suffered the loss -- does believe teammates have to loosen up.

"I think we have too much pressure," Santana said after giving up four runs in a grind-it-out seven-inning effort. "I think we need to relax and just enjoy the game and see what happens. We're just trying too hard."

In tune with that, Scioscia met with the players after the game for the first time this season. He wouldn't go into details about the meeting, but he did continuously use the word "grind."

"We need to grind," he said. "This is a team full of talented guys who grind it out when we're going well, and we project to be a deep lineup. It's been a little bit spotty right now. We need to get simple at the plate. Some guys are starting to get into their game, but just as a unit, we're not finding that offensive chemistry."

Santana gave up three runs in the first on a homer by Cuban slugger Yoenis Cespedes, then gave up only a sixth-inning Jonny Gomes home run the rest of the way.

But his offense gave him no support -- and now he's 0-3.

"Any time you give up four runs or less, to me it's a good outing," said Santana, whose ERA went down from 7.71 to 6.75. "You just have to score runs. ... I know we're trying to do the best we can to score runs, but we have to give credit to Bartolo Colon. He was tremendous today."

Against a lineup that was without Erick Aybar, Mark Trumbo and Peter Bourjos, the 38-year-old limited his former team to just four hits through eight frames. He didn't allow a runner in scoring position until the eighth, limited Pujols to only a single and finished with the longest streak of consecutive strikes since at least 1988.

"I can't believe it," his catcher, Kurt Suzuki, said. "Against a team like this? You look at their lineup and you see 38 strikes, that's going after guys. He's not afraid to throw strikes. That's what he did tonight -- basically all heaters, too."

Yeah, heaters that are a lot slower and cut a lot greater.

"His ball is sick," Hunter said. "I mean, his ball is moving like 30 inches. We could've done better, we should've done better in the game and at the plate, period. But I gotta tell you, I tip my hat to him. His ball was moving like crazy." Comments