Santos got knocked out before the end of the third inning in Baltimore's 10-5 loss to the Angels, extending the Orioles' streak to six straight games of getting five innings or less from their starting pitcher.
Baltimore has now lost eight of its last 10 and 17 of its last 20 games, a run punctuated by disarray in the rotation. Erik Bedard and Jeremy Guthrie have both been lost to oblique injuries, which forced the Orioles into contingency mode. Enter Santos and Victor Zambrano, who were both added by waiver claims and purchases from their prior teams.
"I think it's beyond concern. It's just been a fact that we've lived with far too long," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley. "Like we've been saying all along, it's starting pitching. That kind of sets the tone for the game. In the long run, it's either going to help you down the stretch or really hinder you. Right now, it''s really hindered us because we've had to go to our 'pen so often and so early in games. It's taken its toll."
The Orioles have dealt with injuries to their starting pitchers all season, but the latest blows have taken them beyond the breaking point. Baltimore perservered after losing Kris Benson and Jaret Wright early in the season, and they managed to find Guthrie and Brian Burres after left-hander Adam Loewen went down with a stress fracture in his pitching elbow.
Baltimore thought it had weathered injuries well enough to trade veteran Steve Trachsel at the end of August, and Bedard and Guthrie went down shortly thereafter. Now, the Orioles are counting on Santos and Zambrano -- neither of whom had pitched for them heading into Tuesday night -- and Jon Leicester, who has made all of two career starts.
Right now, the current rotation has 16 wins this season, and nine of them belong to Daniel Cabrera.
"No one's going to feel sorry for us. Nobody's going to hang their heads," said first baseman Kevin Millar, who homered Tuesday night. "We've just got to keep going out there and do the best we can playing hard."
Santos worked two scoreless innings, facing the minimum before falling into trouble in his Baltimore debut. Los Angeles (85-59) started the third with three straight hits and a sacrifice fly to take a two-run lead, and then right fielder Vladimir Guerrero delivered a two-run home run to make it a 5-1 game. Guerrero added another two-run shot later in the game.
"I felt all right, but in the third inning I didn't make many good pitches and they took advantage of it," said Santos, who hadn't started in the Majors since last September. "You can't make those kinds of mistakes against a first-place team."
"I thought after the second inning, his pitches didn't have a whole lot of finish," added Trembley. "With two strikes, there wasn't a put-away pitch. The first couple of innings, he got outs early in the count. It seemed like after that inning, the deeper in the count they took him, the harder [time] he had getting the outs. They fouled him off and fouled him off."
The Orioles (61-82) closed to within 6-4, but the Angels sprinted away again with a three-run seventh inning. Millar drilled a two-run homer for Baltimore, and Tike Redman tripled and scored in the fifth inning. Redman also doubled in the seventh and scored on Miguel Tejada's RBI single to account for the final margin. Baltimore has won just three times since Aug. 22.
"One or two hits here or there, we would've been right back in it. It didn't happen," Trembley said of the latest loss. "It's also important after you score to keep the innings short -- to work fast, throw strikes, put the zeroes up and get your guys back in to hit. When that doesn't happen, I think it has an effect on your whole club."
"You always want to have at-bats that mean something, and when you go down five or six runs it makes it tough to stay focused or have a plan at the plate," said Millar. "We're up here at the big league level, and you've got to go out there to play the game hard and play the game right. ... That means running balls out and having good at-bats."
Santos, who came over from the Cincinnati Reds, forced Baltimore's bullpen to work hard again. Rob Bell worked three innings for the Orioles, and four more relievers combined to cover the rest of the game. Fernando Cabrera allowed Guerrero's second home run, a seventh-inning blast to left-center field that more or less sealed the game for the road team.
"Obviously, we probably would like to have a couple of pitches to Guerrero back, which would've at least kept us in the game," Trembley said.
"With Guerrero, he's such a great hitter, I think you're probably better off making him hit pitches out of the strike zone than you are throwing him pitches in the strike zone. The guy's a great bad-ball hitter to begin with. I think you're complicating the matter even more when you throw the ball in the middle of the plate to him."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.