Ervin Santana hasn’t had back-to-back starts this bad in almost exactly a year, since he gave up five runs in three straight starts from June 4 to June 14. The Twins’ ace had 10 quality starts in 14 appearances this season, but was working through problems from the first inning on Tuesday.
Two singles in the first inning. A double in the second. Five hits, including two doubles and back-to-back homers in the third. Another double in the fourth, and two walks and a two-out triple to the No. 9 hitter in the fifth.
Yeah, it wasn’t his night. Still, Santana earned his ninth victory of the season, matching the nine by Tyler Duffey that led the Twins in 2016. And he also got an interesting vote of confidence from his manager, who allowed him to finish the fifth inning, even after surrendering a two-out, two-run triple to Yolmer Sanchez.
Santana sounded appreciative. “It shows he still has confidence in me,” said the righthander, who struck out Adam Engel to leave Sanchez at third. “He trusts my stuff.”
And you can make a case that the Twins’ pitching, flammable as it was, actually did well in containing the damage. Yes, the White Sox collected 16 hits and four walks, yes they put runners in scoring position in each of the first eight innings. But the Twins allowed only four hits with runners in scoring position, in 20 Chicago opportunities.
The White Sox left 14 runners on base, including an amazing six at third base. Three of Santana’s five innings ended with a runner on third, and the bullpen did it in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings — in each case needing two outs to do so.
Ironically, only Brandon Kintzler, who has a habit of putting runners on base even when recording a save, was the only perfect pitcher the Twins had Tuesday. Kintzler threw just five pitches to retire the side in the ninth and earn his 18th save, one more than he had in 2016, in 21 opportunities.
A couple of other stray notes from a strange night at the ballpark:
— Byron Buxton has been trying to add bunting to his game for weeks, and on Tuesday, he finally got it perfect. Buxton surprised Derek Holland by bunting a 1-0 fastball, and putting it about 20 feet in front of home plate. Holland scrambled off the mound, but catcher Kevan Smith waved him off, but by the time he could grab it, Buxton was already near the bag. It was his fourth bunt single of the year, and easily his best.
— Molitor gave credit to Jason Castro for a big hit that was easy to overlook in the Twins’ 12-hit onslaught (every Twins starter had a hit except Brian Dozier). Holland seemed to survive the Twins’ big third inning, striking out Buxton to limit the damage — but then Castro, batting ninth, singled home Eddie Rosario for the fifth run of the inning, and seventh in three innings. It ended Holland’s night, too; Chicago manager Rick Renteria came out and called for reliever Jake Petricka.
“It was a big hit to knock out their starter,” Molitor said. “Gave them a short start.”