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.