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LAD@LAA: Santana fans 10 over eight solid frames

Angels starter Ervin Santana has been pitching on thin ice for most of this season, but after two not-so-bad starts, he remains in the rotation.

With their off-day on Thursday, Santana was a candidate to have his spot in the Angels' rotation skipped without any other starters having to throw on short rest. But for the time being, he'll keep his spot for a start on Friday, when the Halos face Felix Hernandez and the Mariners.

Santana is having a down year in 2012, and that's putting it lightly. He's 5-10 with a 5.83 ERA in 21 starts. If the season were to end today, those numbers would be the worst of the right-hander's eight-year career.

But in his last two starts, he has shown improvement. Held to a 15-out limit last Monday against the Rangers, Santana allowed three earned runs in five innings. With the limit lifted on Saturday in Chicago because of the Angels' struggling bullpen, Santana was even better, with a six-inning outing in which he allowed two earned runs.

"[Santana] pitched well in Chicago, pitched well in Texas," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Hopefully he's turned the corner on some things."

Opposing Santana for the Mariners will be Hernandez, who's on quite a roll over his last 10 starts.

Hernandez is 6-0 with a 1.41 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 76 1/3 innings in those 10 starts, the last of which was a two-hit shutout of the Yankees on Saturday. His six-game winning streak is tied for the third longest of his career.

In 13 starts at Angel Stadium in his career, Hernandez is 2-5 with a 3.06 ERA.

"I think he could have gone 15 innings," Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan said after Hernandez's last start.

"Getting that first-strike curve over a couple times and having every bit of sharpness as it did in the first, wow. But that changeup, it defies science."

Angels: Struggling against top teams since the break
Heading into their series against the sub-.500 Mariners, the Angels have played a contending team in every series but one since the All-Star Break. And judging by their record, it's easy to tell.

With their loss in the series finale against the Athletics on Wednesday, the Angels have a record of 11-15 since the All-Star break, including a 4-6 record during their 10-game road trip.

Since the break, they have won just two of nine series over that span, with one coming against the last-place Royals.

"Right now, we're playing some teams that are playing at a high level and we really haven't played with the consistency that we can," Scioscia said. "At times we've played tremendous baseball, and some times we've taken a little half-step back. But that's the ebb and flow of the season too. When you find it, you hope to keep it for a long time. We did that, and we're trying to re-establish it, especially after the break, we've had a little bump in the road."

Mariners: Thames trying to get into a groove
In his brief time so far with the Mariners after being acquired from the Blue Jays, Eric Thames hasn't exactly shocked the world. But for him, it's about getting comfortable in the Major Leagues again.

Thames spent time during the past two seasons in the Major Leagues with the Blue Jays and was batting .330 with a .935 OPS in 54 games with Triple-A Las Vegas at the time of the trade.

But still, it's an adjustment in the Majors.

"Of course, the pitching down there and up here is night-and-day different," Thames said. "Getting used to the strike zone and that stuff is different, but once you start getting the at-bats and reps -- I don't want to say it gets easier, because it's never easy -- but it gets more normal.

In 23 at-bats with the Mariners so far, the outfielder has five hits (.217 average), including two doubles and a home run. He has played both left and right field for manager Eric Wedge, both while hitting eighth in the order.

And with less than two months left in the season, Wedge and the Mariners are going to take the time to figure out what they've got in the 25-year-old.

"I still want to really watch him some more before I say anything about him," Wedge said. "There are some things to like there. You like his bat speed, he's got some thump. He's been bouncing around the outfield OK. He's a good kid, strong, so I just want to keep watching him play and give him some opportunity here."

Worth noting
The Angels lead the 2012 series against the Mariners, 5-2, and have won six of the last eight meetings between the two clubs. The Angels are 21-6 in the last 27 games at home against the Mariners, as well.

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