ANAHEIM -- The Angels and Dodgers wouldn't be scoring much on Saturday. The stifling command of Ervin Santana, the deceptive changeup of Chris Capuano and the burdensome afternoon shadows of Angel Stadium hardly allowed it.
It all came down to defense.
The Angels coughed up a couple of plays that led to a couple of runs in the first inning, and the Dodgers turned in a couple of acrobatic catches that kept their lead in tact four innings later.
And because of that, the Angels stomached a 3-1 defeat to their crosstown rivals -- absorbing just their second loss in their last seven games, wasting a terrific start by Santana and missing an opportunity to move within four games of the Rangers in the American League West.
"When I was pitching bad, I wasn't frustrated, so why do I have to be frustrated now that I'm pitching better?" Santana said despite being the tough-luck loser and moving to 4-8. "I know my team's going to get there. I just have to keep pitching and then everything's going to come around to our side."
But it all went the Dodgers' way on Saturday.
There was the first-inning gamble by Albert Pujols at first base when he threw late and somewhat errant across the diamond to let Dee Gordon score. There was the high, two-out throw by third baseman Maicer Izturis three batters later, which led to another first-inning run.
And there were the plays the Dodgers made when the Angels cut their deficit to one and were threatening in the fifth, Gordon ranging to his left at shortstop to rob Mike Trout of a game-tying RBI single and almost turning a double play, and Elian Herrera racing to the wall in center field to rob Torii Hunter of what was nearly a go-ahead three-run homer.
From the third through the eighth, the Angels began each inning with a runner on. But they went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and got only one run out of it.
"Those guys made some plays," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "At times we hit the ball hard with runners in scoring position, and at times they made pitches and we didn't get that hit we needed."
With the speedy Gordon on second base and none out in the first, after his 22nd stolen base of the season, Pujols cleanly fielded a ground ball by Jerry Hairston and tried to gun Gordon down at third. It's an aggressive play he tries to make often, but this time, it bounced off Gordon, trickled toward foul territory and led to the Dodgers' first run.
"I saw it in the corner of my eye," Pujols said. "That's a play that I make a lot. Obviously if I throw him out right there, they don't score in that inning. It was a gamble play. I know it's early in the game, but that isn't going to take any aggressiveness out of me."
"Albert plays well over there, but it's hard to estimate [Gordon's] speed," added Dodgers skipper Don Mattingly, whose club snapped a four-game losing streak. "We were talking in the meeting -- Albert will take a shot over there, so it wasn't a surprise. But when you've got that kind of speed, it makes everybody play faster."
An Angels team that had totaled 26 runs on 37 hits over their previous three games wasn't able to do much off Capuano, who gave up one run on seven hits in seven innings to move to 9-2 with a 2.60 ERA in what has essentially been a storybook season.
"He was mixing his pitches in and out, keeping us off-balance," Pujols said, "but it was pretty tough to see the ball after the second inning with those shadows. I'm not putting any excuses, but you should've seen how both sides were taking swings. It was pretty ridiculous."
Santana didn't get much help from his offense or his defense, but he nonetheless pitched nicely, striking out 10 batters for the ninth time in his career, walking none for the first time this season, scattering four hits and making it through eight innings with three runs (two earned) to continue a roller-coaster season.
Santana posted a 7.23 ERA in his first four starts, then a 2.25 mark in five starts from April 29 to May 20 and a 10.18 ERA in four starts from May 25 to June 10. Now he's on a stretch that has seen him give up two earned runs in 17 innings.
The reason for his current success?
"Location, location, location," he said.
"His season's gone kind of in waves," Scioscia said. "I think it comes down to commanding the ball. He pitched inside well today, I thought he used his fastball in good zones and complemented his breaking ball with it as well as he has all season."
But the Angels couldn't complement him with much help.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.