From May 18 to June 18, a span of 32 days, the Twins played 32 games. From today, June 20, to the All-Star Break, a span of 20 days, they are scheduled to play 21 more. So you can see how much Monday meant to the players.
“Off days are like gold in this game,” Brian Dozier said this afternoon, as he prepared for this next relentless stretch. “To go to the West Coast and come back like we did, with no days off in between, it takes a toll. … Yesterday was a good day to rest. We need our legs back under us.”
And they need some strong starting pitching, too, after being swept by the Indians this weekend. Luckily, it’s Ervin Santana’s turn in the rotation, and he has dominated the White Sox this season, pitching 15 scoreless innings in his two starts against Chicago earlier this season.
“We’re always encouraged when Ervin’s taking the mound,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “We look for a strong start. It would be nice to get back on track with a solid start from Ervin.”
Well, he’s got one encouraging streak going for him: Santana has given up zero or one earned runs in 10 of his 14 starts this season. Oddly, he’s allowed five or more runs in the other four — no middle ground — including his five-run, five-inning disappointment against the Mariners last Wednesday. But in the next start following his three previous losses, he has pitched a total of 25 innings — and allowed not a single run. That’s a 0.00 ERA.
Molitor knows keeping that streak alive is a lot to ask, though of course it would be nice. “We’re not looking for that shutout or complete game. It’s just going out there and showing the composure and the stuff that he has to give us a chance to win the game,” the manager said. Hopefully, if we look up late, we’re in good position to finish it out.”
Santana will be backed up with another shuffled lineup, this one featuring Joe Mauer batting fifth — only the second time in a decade that he’s batted below the cleanup position — and Byron Buxton in the eighth spot, with Jason Castro ninth. Lefthander Derek Holland, 5-6 with a 3.79 ERA, is on the mound for Chicago.
Here are the lineups for tonight’s first game of three: