OAKLAND, CALIF. – Miguel Sano’s homer streak came to an end Monday, and so did the Twins’ four-game winning streak. Now the Twins will see if their other top hitting prospect can help start a new streak.
Byron Buxton was summoned from Class AAA Rochester after Monday’s 3-2 low-voltage matinee loss to the Athletics, and the rookie center fielder should be in uniform, and probably the lineup, on Tuesday night. Buxton, named International League Player of the Week earlier in the day for his three-homer, six-RBI spree last week, will replace the suddenly hobbled Danny Santana.
Santana hustled from first to third base in the fifth inning when Eduardo Nunez singled, getting in position to score one of the Twins’ two runs off Oakland starter Kendall Graveman when Brian Dozier followed with a sacrifice fly. But the play had an unfortunate consequence for Santana: He reinjured the left hamstring that forced him to the disabled list last month. Santana tried to stay in the game, and looped a single into left field his next time up. But manager Paul Molitor noticed him running gingerly, and removed him for a pinch-runner.
A disappointed Santana, who was 5-for-17 since the Twins’ winning streak began, seemed somber in the clubhouse afterward. “You never want this to happen,” he said. “Not just to me but to anybody.”
Especially since, at 25 and not yet established in the majors, every absence is a chance to lose your job.
That’s up to Buxton, of course, and the results weren’t good in April, when he opened the season as the starting center fielder but batted .176 with 24 strikeouts in 17 games and was optioned out. Buxton has thrived at Rochester, though, especially lately: He’s batting .372 this month, with seven doubles and six home runs and a .443 on-base percentage.
“We’ve seen signs of life in terms of production and confidence,” Molitor said earlier this month. “The biggest thing is, he’s putting a lot of time in, trying to find ways to shorten his swing and be more consistent in putting the ball in play.”
He’ll join a team that appeared to be awakening from its season-long offensive slumber during a weekend sweep of the Mariners, but all that power — 11 home runs in four games — disappeared in the bright California sunshine of O.co Coliseum. Minnesota managed eight hits, all of them singles, off Graveman and three relievers, and reached the 50-game benchmark with a 15-35 record, second-worst (after 1982’s 12-38 disaster) in franchise history.
Sano went 1-for-4, Joe Mauer went 0-for-3 with a walk, and neither of them homered, ending their power surge. Mauer had homered in three straight games in Seattle, while Sano’s streak was four straight, one shy of the franchise record.
Three times Ervin Santana allowed the first A’s batter of an inning to reach base. Three times that runner scored. And that was all it took to beat the Twins. Santana allowed only seven hits over seven innings, but Oakland cashed in its chances — including Coco Crisp’s home run on Santana’s second pitch of the day — better than the Twins.
“There’s not much to complain about the effort we got from [Santana],” Molitor said. “It was a good game, just not a lot offensively for us. It was a little disappointing [since we] liked the matchup heading in, especially with how well we’ve been playing.”
“It was just a couple pitches [that hurt], but that’s what happens when you leave the ball up,” Santana said. The pitch to Crisp, an 89-mph fastball, “was just a mistake, and he hit it good.”
Mauer hit one good, too, in the seventh inning with the tying and go-ahead runs on second and third. But his line smash was speared by first baseman Yonder Alonso, ending the Twins’ most serious threat.
“As little as we did offensively,” Molitor said, “we were just a couple of inches from taking the lead.”