ANAHEIM -- Angels catcher John Hester noticed it in the third inning. Ervin Santana said he didn't really start to think about it until the sixth.But as the Angels starter inched closer and closer to perfection, the crowd cheers got a little louder each time, letting everyone else know what was unfolding on Saturday night. It took 6 2/3 innings before before D-backs right fielder Justin Upton ended Santana's bid for a perfect game. The hit was the only one Santana would allow in his shutout, however, as the Angels beat the D-backs, 2-0, at Angel Stadium. "He pitched with purpose," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Whether he made a good pitch or a bad pitch the pitch before, he pitched with purpose. And I think that goes a long way for what Ervin needs to do. He's got such good stuff that if he commits to his game plan, commits to what he wants to do, that his results will be there." Santana retired the first 20 batters before Upton's single broke up his bid for the 11th no-hitter in Angels history. The righty also allowed one walk with five strikeouts. His one-hitter was the 18th in Angels history and the first since C.J. Wilson and Ernesto Frieri combined to throw one on May 22. "He threw the ball great," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "Had good velocity, had good movement on his pitches, and he had everything working." Coming into the game, Santana (4-7) had been on his worst stretch of the season. In his four previous starts, he surrendered 23 runs in 20 1/3 innings. He had given up six home runs and walked 15 batters. But on Saturday night, Santana was better than he has been all season, delivering his first shutout since May 20, 2011, and the seventh in his career. He threw a no-hitter on July 27, 2011, but that included an unearned run. Though it had been nearly a month since Santana had a quality start, Scioscia noticed something in his last start that may have meant he turned the corner. After Santana gave up six runs in the first two innings against the Rockies at hitter-friendly Coors Field, Scioscia said he thought the righty had found the fastball control he had been missing in the previous three outings. And though he may have been somewhat erratic early on Saturday, he found it quickly enough to dominate D-backs hitters throughout the game. He has now given up just one run in his last 12 2/3 innings, and all of a sudden finds himself with some momentum. "Of course, every time when you have an outing like that, you have to keep the mind positive and bring it to the next game," Santana said. "It doesn't matter if I don't have the good results, because in my mind, I'm going to have the positive things." Though the Angels failed to score more than two runs for the fourth straight game, the team is still 2-2 over that span and has won six of its last eight games. The Angels remain four games back of the first-place Rangers in the American League West. The Angels' only runs against D-backs starter Joe Saunders came in the first inning on Mark Trumbo's 15th home run of the season. The two-run shot plated Torii Hunter, who had singled with one out. But the offense fizzled out after that, going 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. "We let them hang around," Scioscia said. "Ervin pitched with his back against the wall and probably speaks more to what he accomplished tonight than anything. We had a lot of chances and couldn't get a couple of runs across and give him a little breathing room." In his first start against the Angels since being traded in July 2010 with three other players in exchange for Dan Haren, Saunders (4-5) was the hard-luck loser. He pitched six innings, giving up two runs on eight hits and four walks. But before the game, Saunders said he offered words of encouragement to his former teammate, who had been struggling of late. And judging by his performance, Santana may have taken those words to heart. "I was kind of out of breath there in between inning because it was just one-two-three, one-two-three, it was like a broken record," Saunders said of Santana. "He had his 'A' game."
Joe McIntyre is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.