ARLINGTON -- The mystifying 2012 struggles of Ervin Santana changed the expectations going into his Monday start against the Rangers. He'd be limited to 15 outs, and the hope was basically that he'd keep the Angels afloat long enough for them to eventually sneak out a win.
Santana did, throwing an ordinary-yet-encouraging five innings of three-run ball.
Then the offense, particularly Kendrys Morales, went absolutely bonkers.
With the game tied in the sixth inning, the Angels erupted against starter Roy Oswalt and reliever Robbie Ross, sending 12 men to the plate, notching eight hits and plating nine runs in an eventual 15-8 rout on a steamy evening at Rangers Ballpark, moving four games back of their rivals in the American League West.
Santana wound up with the win, his first since June 16, and Jerome Williams picked up his first career save despite giving up five runs in four innings after the game had already been decided.
Morales, meanwhile, made history, becoming just the third player to hit a home run from each side of the plate in the same inning.
"I'm really happy to have done that; it's obviously not easy to do that in the same inning," said Morales, now with 11 homers and a .271 batting average on the year. "I feel like that may be more luck than anything else."
Luck or not, Morales (from the left side) hit a two-run homer off Oswalt and (from the right side) a grand slam off Ross to give him six RBIs in the same frame. That's a franchise record, one shy of the AL record and two away from the Major League mark. Only the Indians' Carlos Baerga (1993) and the Cubs' Mark Bellhorn (2002) had homered from both sides of the plate in the same inning.
Prior to that frame, the Angels' designated hitter had just three hits in his previous 28 at-bats, with 14 strikeouts in that span.
"Kendrys had started to show some frustration," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He had been working on a couple of things in the cage and just hasn't gotten into that comfort zone. At the plate at times it looks like he's just searching for some things. Sometimes it just takes one swing, and hopefully it's going to start something good. He's too good a hitter to be down so long."
Morales' exploits helped the Angels tie an AL season high for runs in an inning -- the White Sox also scored nine against the Rangers in Chicago on July 3 -- and put them just four off the club record of 13, accomplished in 1978 and '97.
But it wasn't just Morales who came through.
Mike Trout hit a two-run homer, his 17th of the year and ninth this month, and added a two-run single. Albert Pujols went 3-for-4 with two doubles and two RBIs. Maicer Izturis went 3-for-5 with a homer and three runs scored. And Howie Kendrick and Bobby Wilson each had two hits.
All of it led to the Angels setting a season high in runs, even with Mark Trumbo out with a back spasms, while making an emphatic statement in the opener of a four-game set against their heated division rivals.
"Any series, you want to take that first game," outfielder Torii Hunter said. "You enjoy tonight, you wake up tomorrow, and you have to have amnesia -- forget about today. But we'd like to ride on this, remember what we did today and build off it."
And to think, coming into this game, the Angels were shut out in back-to-back contests and had gone 23 straight innings without a run.
"They've got a good offense over there," Rangers outfielder David Murphy said. "You've got to give them credit. They swung the bat well today and we got beat. Some nights you come out and kick the ball around and beat yourself. That wasn't the case tonight. They came out and beat us tonight."
Santana came in with a 6.00 ERA and faced what was perhaps his last chance to remain in the rotation, especially given the acquisition of Zack Greinke and the presence of Garrett Richards. But he was much better against the same Rangers team that beat him up for six runs in 1 2/3 innings on July 21, allowing runs only on a Michael Young sac fly, a Murphy double and a Josh Hamilton homer.
Using a steady diet of fastballs, Santana scattered four hits while walking one and striking out three in his shortened, 69-pitch outing. It was in no way impressive, but it was enough to earn another start, though Scioscia hasn't decided if it'll be under the 15-out limit.
"It's a very good feeling to win again," Santana said. "A lot of positives, things in my mind. My slider was way better, and my fastball was coming out very good."
But still, there's the expectation -- or, at least, the hope -- that Santana can and should be better.
"There's still upside there, and that's what we need to search for," Scioscia said. "We need him back where he was, and where he can be."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read 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.