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After no-hitter, Ervin Santana overshadowed no more

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Back in 2003, when Johan Santana was a 20-year-old in the Angels farm system, he worried that he might have to spend his career being confused with that pitcher with the same name who was dominating hitters for the Minnesota Twins.

He thought it might be wise to make a change, to make a name for himself. “I just came up with Ervin … Ervin Santana, that sounds good.”

Indeed it does.

On Wednesday against the Cleveland Indians, Ervin Santana put his name in the history books, becoming the first Santana – Johan, Ervin, Carlos or otherwise — to throw a no-hitter.

He did it with cold-blooded efficiency, throwing 76 of his 105 pitches for strikes. His four-seam fastball averaged 93 mph with plenty of movement, and his slider dropped off the table, yet was thrown for strikes more than 73 percent of the time. (Check out some more facts here)

He allowed only two base runners — one when Ezeqiuel Carrera reached on an Erick Aybar error in the first, and the other on a walk to Lonnie Chisenhall in the eighth — and struck out 10, including five of the final eight batters.

It all added up to a performance that Fangraphs called the most dominant of this season’s three no-hitters, despite the fact he actually allowed a run.

“Good fastball, good slider,” Cleveland Indians manager Manny Acta said. “He just attacked the zone.”

At 81-63 with a 4.31 ERA, Santana’s career has been fairly nondescript. Solid, yet unspectacular. He was overshadowed as a youngster by Johan Santana, and overshadowed as a big leaguer by teammates Jered Weaver and Dan Haren.

Santana has been better than his 6-8 record suggests this season, and has a 2.04 ERA over his last seven starts. But at 28, and with seven big league seasons under his belt, he still resides somewhere in the neighborhood between potential star and possible journeyman.

Is Wednesday’s feat a sign of better things to come? Angels catcher Bobby Wilson, who directed Wednesday’s masterpiece, thinks so, telling Lyle Spencer of MLB.com:

“We talked about attacking hitters. ‘Don’t give them too much credit. You’re here for a reason. Obviously, you have the stuff. Trust it and go after guys.’

“That’s what Ervin did, and if he keeps doing it, he’ll have a better chance every time he goes out there.”

For one day, at least, Santana gets the stage to himself. For one day, he is the ace with his name in lights.

Enjoy the moment, Ervin.

Bonus link: A song about how Santana changed his name.

You can follow Bob on Twitter, and be friends on Facebook here.

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
Jason O. Watson/Getty Images
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.