It was going to be an all-Santana showcase for the Twins on Thursday night. Ervin Santana pitched eight strong innings, made only one major mistake but left with a tie score and some good feelings about the future. And Danny Santana raced 50 feet in center field for a game-saving catch, caught Toronto by surprise with a bunt hit and stole a couple of bases. Despite some stout pitching by the Blue Jays, the Santanas were all set up to be the heroes, to help turn around the Twins’ rotten season.
And a moment’s hesitation, a half-second pause, spoiled it all. Just like that, Danny Santana ran into a critical out and the Twins had a 3-2, 11-inning loss to the Blue Jays, their fourth in a row and seventh in a row at home, dropping them 20 games below .500 at 10-30. And Santana was forced to answer questions about his mistake, not just his heroics.
After Toronto went ahead on Troy Tulowitzki’s two-out single off Fernando Abad in the top of the 11th, Santana reached in the bottom of the inning on a one-out single, only the Twins’ fourth hit of the game. He was given the green light by manager Paul Molitor, a show of confidence and an act of defiance in the face of the Twins’ putrid record.
“I’m going to try to get in scoring position when I can, if I think the odds are right,” Molitor said. “I’m not going to wait for a two-run homer there if I think we can steal a base.” Besides, base stealers were 3-for-3 off Blue Jays reliever Joe Biagini, and Santana, the Twins’ most prolific base stealer, had already swiped two.
But on his previous steal, off starter Marco Estrada in the fifth inning, Santana had grown anxious and left a beat early. Toronto noticed, and adjusted.
“They saw him break early on his second stolen base. It’s not surprising they’re going to hold the ball on you the next time around,” Molitor said.
Said Santana, “I figure, that’s what they said — ‘He stole two bases already, let’s hold the ball and see what happens.’ ”
Biagini did, and Santana broke for second. Biagini simply stepped off the rubber and tossed the ball to Ryan Goins waiting at second, and the Twins’ chances at an extra-inning rally were tagged out with Santana.
“It’s good that he can trust me like that, that he puts that confidence in me,” Santana said of Molitor, “but I have to give that back and have to show I can do the things he asks me to do so I can keep that confidence going.”
Ervin Santana has confidence that the Twins will get it going, even in the midst of the team’s worst start in franchise history.
“Even though we lost, I like the chemistry we had in today’s game. Everybody was excited to play, you could tell everyone was playing hard, so that’s a big key for us,” he said. “We have to keep it going and everything is going to turn our way.”
It will if the rest of the pitchers emulate him. Against a Toronto offense that scored only seven runs in a three-game series with Tampa Bay earlier this week, Santana had his longest outing since Sept. 5 and the longest by any Twins pitcher this season. The veteran righthander retired 13 in a row at one point, and he didn’t give up a hit after the sixth inning.
Of course, that hit in the sixth was a big one. After issuing a one-out walk to Josh Donaldson, Santana served up a first-pitch fastball to Edwin Encarnacion that the Blue Jays cleanup hitter seemed to snap out of the park before Santana could even turn his head to watch, tying the score at 2-2.
“It was middle in. It was middle in, it was supposed to be inside, but it was middle in,” Santana said. “That was a mistake.”
And it doesn’t take many to hand the Twins another loss.