Coming off a dominant performance in a complete-game 7-1 victory over Tampa Bay, Santana wasn’t quite as sharp at Baltimore on Wednesday. The 2004 AL Cy Young Award winner allowed four runs and a season-high nine hits over six innings, leaving without a decision in Minnesota’s 7-4 loss.
The Twins ace won his first three starts, and has since gone 2-1 in five appearances while pitching at least seven innings four times. He leads the AL in strikeouts (67) and is among the league leaders in wins (5), innings pitched (56) and batting average against (.215).
Hunter, winner of four straight Gold Glove Awards, is expected to return after missing two games with a sore wrist. He is batting .272 (12-for-44) with three RBIs in 10 games this month.
Minnesota ended a three-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over visiting Texas on Sunday.
“I was praying it would (stay fair), I hit it good enough,” Stewart said. “We’re playing good ball, but we’ve had some bad breaks the last two series.”
Most encouraging for the Twins was the performance of reliever Juan Rincon, who struck out the side in a perfect eighth inning. The appearance was the second for Rincon since he served a 10-day ban for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug.
“The ball was jumping out of his hand,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He threw a 3-2 slider to (Mark) Teixeira that was pretty nasty when you’re throwing 94 mph. That’s the guy we want back out there. That’s how we dominate the eighth inning and the ninth inning, and we did it today, so it was a great performance.”
Tuesday will be the first game back in the Metrodome for Blue Jays third baseman Corey Koskie, who was drafted and developed by the Twins and played for them from 1998-04. He signed a three-year contract with Toronto in December.
“I would imagine our fans will give him a nice ovation,” Gardenhire said.
Koskie and the Blue Jays avoided a three-game sweep at Cleveland on Sunday, getting another outstanding performance from ace Roy Halladay in a 5-2 victory.
Toronto has struggled to find consistency of late, winning four of six after a three-game losing streak that followed a 7-1 stretch.
While Halladay is clearly Toronto’s ace, Tuesday’s scheduled starter Josh Towers is making a strong case for that title.
Towers has won three straight starts and was outstanding in his last two, allowing one run and 10 hits over 16 innings while walking two and striking out seven. He has pitched at least six innings in six of seven starts.