Ervin Santana was warned about intentionally throwing at Mariners hitters on Wednesday night, a formality that surprised him because "they know that's not my game."
Neither is following up a shutout with a victory.
Santana has pitched four shutouts while with the Twins, three of them this season, and each time, the Twins have lost his next start, an odd pattern that has extended throughout his career and emphasizes that momentum among starting pitchers probably doesn't exist. The same pitcher who so dominated at San Francisco last week was facing a two-run deficit only five pitches into Wednesday's game, and eventually absorbed a 6-4 loss, the Twins' third defeat in four games.
Mitch Haniger hit a two-run homer before the Target Field crowd had settled in, and Mike Zunino continued his punishment of the Twins with a three-run homer, and both were later plunked by the Twins righthander, which caught the umpires' attention. Zunino, who has homered four times against the Twins in the past week, loudly grumbled in Santana's direction as he took first base, but Santana shrugged off the challenge. Umpires huddled near the mound, then issued warnings to both benches.
"Circumstantial," Twins manager Paul Molitor said of the evidence against Santana (8-4), who had hit only two other batters this year. "Ervin had already misfired up and in to another hitter. … I don't particularly agree [with the warning], but I get that one of their main jobs is to try to protect integrity and safety of the game."
Santana said he didn't expect the warning. He said he does not have the reputation for head-hunting.
"He knows I don't try to hit nobody. That's not my game," Santana said. "I know [Zunino] was diving the whole game and I just tried to go inside."
Everything was a little bit off about the Twins ace, who was nearly unhittable Friday night vs. the Giants. One occassional problem for him this year is his vulnerability to home runs; he has given up 13 on the season, with 10 coming in his four losses.
"Ervin will tell you that he had to battle tonight, that he probably didn't have as good a feel for his slider as he did his last time out," Molitor said. "The first one he threw was hit over the fence. Same thing on the later one to Zunino, when he gave up the three-run homer."
Santana's teams are 3-7 in his career after he throws a shutout; he hasn't followed one up with a victory since 2011.
Despite falling behind 5-0, though, the Twins battled back with home runs of their own, three in all. Eduardo Escobar and Byron Buxton smacked long solo home runs off Seattle starter Sam Gaviglio in the fifth inning, and Miguel Sano pulled an outside pitch over the fence in the sixth, a two-run shot that ended Gaviglio's night.
The Twins put two runners on in the eighth and two more in the ninth, but Seattle closer Edwin Diaz stranded them all. In the eighth, he came in to end the inning by striking out Kennys Vargas on three pitches.
In the ninth, Jason Castro drew a one-out walk off Diaz's 101-mile-per-hour fastball, and Buxton beat out a chopper for his third hit of the night. But Eddie Rosario struck out, also on three pitches, and Brian Dozier then hit a long fly ball — but not long enough. Jarrod Dyson caught it in front of the warning track in center field.
"It didn't have the sound. You can usually tell off the bat," Molitor said. "Wrong part of the park."