Celebrate, L.A.! Santana hurls no-hitter

Ervin Santana, right, and shortstop Erick Aybar celebrate after Santana's no-hitter in a 3-1 win over the Cleveland Indians. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

How poetic is it that Ervin Santana’s first career no-hitter would come against a team he had never previously beaten?

Santana pitched an absolute gem on his way to a 3-1, no-hit victory over the Cleveland Indians. It was his first career victory over the Tribe, a team that long dogged Santana since his first major league start on May 17, 2005. In that game, he allowed the first four Cleveland batters he faced to hit for the cycle (a single, a double, a triple, and a home run).

It goes without saying that this victory had to have been the sweetest in Santana’s career.

In typical Angel fashion, the no-hitter came with a bit of a caveat: an unearned run. It is the first no-hitter with a run allowed in franchise history, and the 11th overall in major league history.

The unearned run came in the first inning of the contest on an error, a steal, a groundout and a wild pitch. After the first, Santana settled down and Angel fans witnessed history.

Santana’s biggest flaw has always been his inability to stay consistent. Fans are familiar with his tendency to bedazzle in one start and then disappoint the next. From year to year, in fact, Santana has alternated between marvelous and mediocre.

But this time, Ervin’s second consecutive quality start has placed him in both Angels lore and baseball history.

Santana was not everybody’s (if anybody’s) first pick if asked who would throw the first Angels no-hitter since 1984. His comrades in the rotation are statistical behemoths Jered Weaver and Dan Haren, not to mention 100-game winner Joel Piñeiro. As such, Santana coming out of nowhere and pitching his no-no is a surprise, to say the least.

There are some who may examine the score, see the unsightly “1” in the second column, and turn their noses up in disdain.

“Some no-hitter,” they may say. “How can we get excited about that?”

The fact of the matter is Santana went nine innings without allowing a single hit. Not a single, double, triple or home run was allowed, and in today’s offense-heavy MLB, there are few greater achievements. Had Erick Aybar not mishandled the grounder in the first inning, we may very well have born witness to a no-hitter that also happened to be a shutout. There isn’t too much of a distinction there anyway, so Santana, the Angels and their fans can bathe in the glory of an accomplishment not seen in Anaheim since Mike Witt’s perfect game.

Santana joins such Angels legends as Bo Belinsky, Clyde Wright, Nolan Ryan and Witt in the team’s no-hitters club. It’s an exciting development in Santana’s young career, and it gives Angels fans reason to believe he will one day deliver on the potential he has so often flashed.

For now, though, fans can revel in witnessing their first Angels no-hitter in 27 years and a career’s worth of demons exorcised in nine brilliant innings of baseball.

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