SAN DIEGO – What meant more to Ervin Santana on Wednesday, the nine innings or the two-run single? Santana didn’t need much time to think about it.
“Going nine innings,” Santana said.
But Santana, once again, was more than a pitcher during the Twins’ 5-2 win over the Padres. His two-out, two-run single in the second inning opened the scoring. The Twins scored two more runs in the inning and never looked back.
And that was because Santana tossed a 110-pitch gem at San Diego, giving up only a two-run home run to Jose Pirela in the fourth. He got ahead of hitters and dictated the action all afternoon as the Twins split the two-game series.
Santana now has a major league-leading and career-high five complete games this season, 21 for his career.
“That’s why every time I get a chance I want it,” Santana said, “because they don’t come too often.”
Santana said he wanted the ball when manager Paul Molitor checked on him following the eighth inning.
He probably thought the same thing when he batted in the second inning with Miguel Sano at third and Jorge Polanco at second. He went after the first pitch from Padres righthander Luis Perdomo, slapping a two-run single to right.
On June 9 in San Francisco, Santana cleared the bases with an opposite-field double against the Giants. That’s makes five RBI this season for Santana, tying him with Dan Haren and Woody Williams for the most interleague RBI in a season by a pitcher.
“He was a starter,” Molitor said. “He was the middle man, he was the setup man, he was the closer and he was our clutch hitter. Pretty good day for him, and us.”
The two-game series between the Twins and Padres was completed quickly.
Tuesday’s matchup between Jose Berrios and Jhoulys Chacin took 2 hours, 23 minutes to play, tied for the shortest Twins game of the season.
Wednesday’s game, which was controlled by Santana, took 2:24. They are the fastest consecutive games by the Twins this season.
Polanco doubled in his first at-bat on Wednesday, part of a four-run second inning for the Twins.
It was the kind of result the Twins had expected all season from Polanco, but a terrible slump that started right after the All-Star break forced manager Molitor to remove Polanco as the starting shortstop and mix in Ehire Adrianza and Eduardo Escobar.
Polanco entered Wednesday batting just .129 over his previous 29 games.
But Wednesday, Molitor felt, was the right time to give Polanco a start. Polanco has been working on being more selective at the plate and not hitting the ball in the air. It showed in his first at-bat when he hit a low liner to right for a double.
“I think as the hits became more scarce he started getting out of his strength of recognizing pitches and working counts and trying to keep the ball in the zone, just expanding it,” Molitor said. “Then he would realize that he was expanding and once in a while he realized that he was expanding and he would try to be more patient and then it was 0-2.”
Polanco ended up 1-for-4 in the game. He’s batting .213 on the season, but the Twins expect more from him at the plate.
The development of Polanco has become a somewhat important subject. If the Twins determine that Polanco is not the right man for the position going forward, they must determine whether prospect Nick Gordon is ready to contribute. They could take a hard look at Adrianza or Escobar, or go another route.
For now, Molitor will continue to mix and match at shortstop. But the Twins hope that Polanco will snap out of his funk at the plate.
“Maybe he can take some of the weight off and maybe he can get on a roll,” Molitor said.