CHICAGO — Paul Molitor sure hopes he’s wrong. Every time the Twins face Chris Sale, he fears the worst.
“Knowing the quality of pitcher he is, every time we faced him, I figured it was about time he stuck it to us,” the Twins manager said about Chicago’s lefty starter tonight. “And for whatever reason, we seemed to have good offensive days, regardless of how many times we faced him.”
Sure did. The Twins scored more than one-third of all the runs Sale allowed last year, and beat him five times in six matchups. But that was last year; things are a little different now. Well, Sale isn’t — he’s a Cy Young candidate once again, off to a 6-0 start with a 1.66 ERA. But the Twins? They’re more different by the day.
Three more newcomers were in the clubhouse today, after two more yesterday, and the Twins’ lineup reflects that. Darin Mastroianni will lead off for the Twins, for the first time since April 18, 2014 — his final game before being claimed off waivers. “Mastro’s been around. I don’t think he’ll be overwhelmed by getting a chance to lead off or by facing Sale,” Molitor said. “His history is he’s done better against lefties. He takes walks.”
Jorge Polanco will play second base, giving Brian Dozier another night off to rest his strained hamstring. Dozier lobbied to play — he has three career home runs against Sale — but Molitor is leery of making such a delicate injury worse. Meanwhile, Polanco will be starting his seventh stint with the Twins; none of the previous six lasted longer than four games.
Joe Mauer isn’t in the lineup, either, but Molitor said it has nothing to do with Sale, or the end to his on-base streak, which was snapped Friday. Mauer has appeared in all 29 games this year, and had reached base in the first 28, before last night’s 0-for-4. That’s five short of Kent Hrbek’s franchise record for the start of a season.
The big news for the Twins, who are just 2-13 on the road, is that Ervin Santana, their Opening Day starter, is back on the mound after two weeks off with back spasms. He gave up three runs over seven innings when the Sox visited Target Field last month, but he’s 4-3 with a 3.29 ERA in his career at U.S. Cellular Field.
“We’re glad we got him back,” Molitor said, though he may have a shorter pitch count today, considering how long he’s been out. “Hopefully he gives us a boost.”
With seven losses in their last eight games, the Twins could use one. Here are tonight’s lineups on a chilly but pleasant night in Chicago:
D. Santana CF
E. Santana RHP