ANAHEIM, CALIF. – The Twins offense kept muting rallies on Tuesday. They just needed Ervin Santana to put up one more zero, but he kept letting them down.
So the few clutch hits they came up with were wasted in a 5-4 loss to the Angels, snapping a five-game winning streak against Los Angeles that goes back to last season. Santana lasted just five innings, giving up five earned runs for the fourth time in five starts. He gave up 10 hits for the first time since Aug. 8 of last season. And Twins manager Paul Molitor sounded a little perplexed about what is wrong with his once reliable starter who now has a 7.71 ERA over his last five outings.
“It was just a game where, for Ervin, they just seemed to get a lot of good swings,” Molitor said. “I’m not exactly sure what the issue is but he’s throwing hard, he’s using his slider. The troubling thing is that, the three times we scored, they answered. You’d like to go back out and try to put zeros up to give us a little momentum.”
The Twins scored in four different innings. Three of the runs came with two outs. But the Angels retaliated in the bottom half of the inning three times. The target kept moving until the Twins were out of innings. Santana fell to 1-7 while Angels righthander Jhoulys Chacin improved to 2-2.
“It’s very frustrating when you see the team put in all the effort to try to keep their place in the game,” Santana said. “And every time we score I give up runs. It’s not good pitching.”
The Angels leadoff hitter, Yunel Escobar, singled in the first, advanced on Mike Trout’s double then scored the first run of the game when Albert Pujols shot a slider through the middle of the infield. Trout tried to score as well, but Byron Buxton rifled the ball home in time for Juan Centeno to tag Trout out. It was Buxton’s first assist of the season.
Molitor pointed out that Santana had first base open and could have pitched around Pujols to get to C.J. Cron.
“Just situational pitching,” he said.
Centeno tied the game in the second with a RBI single that scored Brian Dozier. It didn’t stay tied long as second baseman Johnny Giavotella hit a two-run home run on a pitch that was up in the strike zone to give the Angels a 3-1 lead.
Early runs have been a habit against Santana. The Angels were 6-for-9 against Santana the first time through the order on Tuesday, and it also was the fifth straight start during which an opponent has scored the first time through the order.
The Twins tried to absorb these blows and retaliate, but Los Angeles played keepaway. Trevor Plouffe came through with a two-out, two-strike single to left in the third to drive in Robbie Grossman. The Angeles answered in the bottom of the inning when Kole Calhoun launched a home run to right on a slider that was hung over the middle of the plate.
Joe Mauer got the Twins within 4-3 in the fifth with a RBI triple. Well, to tell the truth, Angels left fielder Jefry Marte made a mess of Mauer’s sinking liner, first breaking in when he should of went back, then turning left when he should of turned right. Grossman scored another run, his fifth in two games.
But Gregorio Petit led off with a double and scored when Calhoun bounced a pitch just by Mauer’s diving attempt at first for a RBI double.
The Twins kept fighting back, getting a RBI double from Buxton in the sixth inning to make it 5-4. But they ran out of answers.
“I just try to keep the ball down for the most part and just try to keep working,” Santana said.
Santana is not the pitcher the Twins thought they were getting when they signed him to a four-year, $55 million contract prior to the 2015 season. And Molitor said he’s got to figure out how to help Santana find his form.
“He’s a prideful. motivated, hard-working professional pitcher who has had some success at this level, there’s no doubt about that,” Molitor said. “It’s been a little bit of a grind, trying to minimize damage early in the game.
“He’ll keep working. I don’t think it is something that is major in terms of anything drastic. It’s just refining. It seems like when he makes mistakes they are getting hit hard.”