ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. – Ervin Santana took a break from talking about his pitching struggles to address just how the Twins were able to hold off Tampa Bay 11-7 on Tuesday.
“I just want to say that our bullpen and our hitting did a good job,” Santana said. “They got my back today.”
Santana had the latest in a run of poor outings, but he had it on a night in which the Twins reached double digits in runs for the fourth time this month and the bullpen allowed only two runs over the final 6 ⅓ innings. The Twins tied a season high with their fifth consecutive victory, the longest active streak in the American League. It’s also a five-game road winning streak — all coming during this current trip — which is their longest since June 2-6, 2011. They are one-half game out of the second AL wild-card spot.
Miguel Sano, Brian Dozier and Eddie Rosario each homered, and Rosario hit his 10th triple to set a Twins rookie record.
Sano, Rosario and Byron Buxton, all rookies, combined to go 5-for-13 with five runs scored, two home runs and five RBI.
“These guys have a fire about them that I really like,” Twins outfielder Torii Hunter said.
It was a night in which the Twins outhit Santana’s mistakes.
“The next one,” Santana said, “I got their back.”
It began in the first inning when Sano hit his 12th home run, his latest impressive at-bat. He fell behind 1-2 only to run the count full before he hit a majestic 411-foot blast to straightaway center. The kid has homered in the first game of all three stops of the road trip.
Sano, according to ESPN Stats and Info, is the first player age 22 or younger to have 12 home runs in his first 45 career games since Adam Dunn in 2001. He joins Orlando Cepeda and Albert Pujols as the only players that young with 12 homers and 37 RBI in their first 45 games.
Tampa Bay scored twice in the second inning, but Hunter made it 5-2 with a two-run single in the third.
Santana went out for the third and floundered some more. He threw two balls to James Loney before he hit a fat pitch for a two-run double. Kevin Kiermaier then lined a single to center to tie the score at 5-5 — sending Santana to the showers.
“The first inning was good,” said Santana, who has a 9.20 ERA over his past six starts, “but after that, my fastball location was off and a little bit up and everything running to the middle. I just have to make an adjustment the next outing.”
Twins manager Paul Molitor wants to huddle with Santana before his next outing, because Rays hitters looked too ready for his fastball, as if they knew what was coming.
“I think we’ll look at that,” Molitor said. “I can’t say that’s the answer. It looks a little peculiar on the side when that is going on and knowing his history and how we have seen people swing and miss and expand the zone with his off-speed stuff. We will make sure [tipping off his pitches] is not the cause.”
The Twins kept adding on, scoring five runs over the next two innings. Two came on Dozier’s homer to left-center in the fourth and two more on a double by Eduardo Escobar in the fifth. Buxton followed Escobar with an RBI ground-rule double as the Twins took a 10-6 lead and never looked back. A great offensive evening, but Molitor still felt uneasy in the late innings.
“You’re looking to win games but sometimes they don’t feel quite as good as others because of how they unfold,” he said. “We are kind of in that phase where we are taxing our bullpen pretty good, and you don’t like to do that because it takes its toll. We’ll take the win. It was a night where the offense picked us up.”