Johan Santana might not be Minnesota’s ace this season, but he has been for the month of August.
Santana looks to go unbeaten in August and record his career-high ninth victory as the Twins open a three-game series against the Texas Rangers at the Ballpark in Arlington.
Santana, who entered the starting rotation on July 11, is 4-0 with a 1.25 ERA in five August starts. He has lasted eight innings three times and have 40 strikeouts this month.
The 24-year-old Venezuelan allowed one run and six hits while striking out 10 over six innings in an 8-1 home victory over Kansas City on Sunday.
“When he goes out there, you know he’s going to put on a good performance, especially if he’s throwing strikes and has his changeup and fastball working,” Twins center fielder Torii Hunter said.
Santana, 7-2 with a 2.41 ERA in 12 starts this season, can surpass his win total of last season when he finished 8-6 with a 2.99 ERA.
“I always do the things they ask me to do,” he said. “Now that I’m in the starting rotation, I want to stay there for the rest of my career.”
Minnesota comes in after taking two of three at Anaheim, including Thursday’s 6-1 victory.
The Rangers enter after being swept at Kansas City, capped by Thursday’s 6-5, 11-inning loss. Texas has lost six of seven since a season-high eight-game winning streak.
John Thomson will get the start for the Rangers on Friday. He is 4-0 since July 22, with Texas winning his last seven starts.
In a 4-0 road victory over the Chicago White Sox on Sunday, Thomson pitched a four-hitter, striking out six and walking only one.
Thomson, in his first season in the AL after spending five years with Colorado and the New York Mets, beat Minnesota on July 10, giving up just one run and eight hits over seven innings in a 9-4 home win.
STANDINGS: Twins - 3rd place, 1 1/2 GB, AL Central. Rangers - 4th place, 17 1/2 GB, AL West.
TWINS PROBABLE STARTER: Santana (8-3, 2.85 ERA). Santana hasn’t lost since July 23 against Kansas City. He is 0-1 with a 13.50 ERA in two career starts against Texas.
RANGERS PROBABLE STARTER: Thomson (12-10, 4.94 ERA). Thomson has won eight of his last nine decisions overall. He has allowed more three runs only twice in his last seven starts.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Twins - Jones, .311 avg.; Hunter, 23 HRs and 84 RBIs; Shannon Stewart, 74 runs; Cristian Guzman, 14 SBs. Rangers - Hank Blalock, .310 avg.; Rodriguez, 39 HRs, 97 RBIs, 104 runs and 16 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Rangers, 3-0.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Twins - LHP Santana, ninth in the AL with 139 strikeouts, has struck out a league-high 58 since the All-Star break. … C Matthew LeCroy is 9-for-25 (.360) with six RBIs over his last six games. With runners in scoring position, he’s 26-for-66 (.394) this season. Rangers - SS Rodriguez’s two homers Thursday give him a major league-leading 14 this month. … The Rangers lead the AL with 198 homers.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Twins - 34-32 on the road; Rangers - 35-30 at home.
INJURIES: Twins - OF Lew Ford (arm), 15-day DL; RHP Rick Reed (back), 15-day DL; RHP Mike Fetters (hamstring), 60-day DL; LHP Eric Milton (elbow), 60-day DL. Rangers - OF Juan Gonzalez (calf), 15-day DL; OF Kevin Mench (wrist), 15-day DL; RHP Chan Ho Park (rib cage, oblique), 15-day DL; RHP Ricardo Rodriguez (hip), 60-day DL; RHP Jeff Zimmerman (elbow), 60-day DL; INF Herbert Perry (shoulder), 60-day DL; OF Rusty Greer (neck), 60-day DL.