Minnesota starter Johan Santana is hoping some time away from his home park will help him shake a midseason slump.
Santana looks to snap a season-high four-start winless streak as the Twins wrap up a three-game series with the Los Angeles Angels.
Santana allowed two earned runs and eight hits in six innings of the Twins’ 7-4 win over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Friday, but did not receive a decision. The 26-year-old left-hander, last year’s AL Cy Young Award winner, has not earned a win since shutting out Arizona on June 8.
He has not won at home since April 10 in his second start of the season. Santana is 1-3 with a 4.14 ERA in nine starts at home, compared to 6-1 with a 3.27 ERA in eight starts on the road.
Santana had allowed 10 earned runs in 11 2-3 innings in his previous two starts, both losses. However, his team hasn’t given him much help, scoring only 11 runs while he was in the game during his winless streak.
Reliever Jesse Crain, who leads the Twins with eight wins, has blown leads for Santana in each of his last two starts, both times on homers—the only two he has allowed this season.
“Sometimes, you’re going to struggle a little bit,” Santana said. “You have to realize what’s going on and be able to just put everything back together.”
Santana, who leads the majors with 140 strikeouts, has walked two or more batters in four consecutive starts, his longest streak since doing it in six straight starts last July. He has been leaving his pitches up more than he would like and the Twins have been working with him on pounding the inside of the strike zone with his fastball.
Santana will square off against the Angels’ Paul Byrd, who allowed just two hits in a complete-game, 5-0 win over the Kansas City Royals on Friday to win his third straight decision. The shutout was his first since 2002 for Byrd, who also gave the Angels’ their first complete-game two-hitter since Ramon Ortiz threw one against Boston on Aug. 3, 2000.
Byrd, who faced just one batter over the minimum, has thrown two complete games in his last three starts—he gave up just six hits in a 5-1 win over the Texas Rangers on June 20.
Byrd, who called Friday’s outing his finest game ever, said he is pitching even better than in 2002, when he threw seven complete games and won 17 for the woeful Kansas City Royals.
“I’m a little smarter now,” said Byrd, who has thrown four career shutouts. “I don’t necessarily have better stuff, but I continually try to learn. I feel I’m better because I have a little better feel for pitching.”
The Angels beat the Twins 2-1 on Tuesday for their 12th win in 15 games. Bengie Molina drove in the go-ahead run with a homer in the fifth inning for Los Angeles, and Chone Figgins went 2-for-4 with a run.
Shannon Stewart went 3-for-5 for the Twins, who had won seven of eight.