Three losses and no wins into late April is not what Johan Santana is used to.
In 2004, Santana (0-3, 4.81 ERA) did not lose his fourth game until June 3, capping a string of four straight defeats in as many starts. Starting in late July, he won 12 consecutive starts en route to a 20-6 record and the AL Cy Young Award.
Last year, the fourth loss for the left-hander came on June 25. He closed out the season with nine wins in 17 starts to go 16-7.
In his last start on Friday, Santana faced the Chicago White Sox and lasted seven innings, allowing two runs and five hits with a season-high six strikeouts in a 7-1 loss.
All three of Santana’s losses have come on the road, where the Twins have a 2-9 record. Despite his latest defeat, Santana said he is rounding into form.
“I felt good,” he said. “I felt like the all was coming out pretty good. My pitches were there.”
Santana is 8-3 with a 3.62 ERA in 23 career games, including 12 starts, against the Royals while holding them to a .217 batting average. He has been dominant in winning his last two starts at Kansas City, allowing two runs and six hits in 15 innings.
Santana will be opposed by Mark Redman (0-0, 4.91), who also is looking for his first win of the season. He gave up three runs and five hits with two walks and five strikeouts Friday in the Royals’ 6-5 loss to Cleveland.
Redman, who has allowed opponents to bat .308 against him this year, was tied with Brad Radke for second on the Twins with 12 wins in 2000.
Redman is 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA in his career against Minnesota.
The Royals have won three of four after an 11-game losing streak, and on Wednesday welcomed back one of their top starting pitchers.
A day before his 28th birthday, Runelvys Hernandez made his season debut for the Royals by limiting Minnesota to two hits over seven innings in a 3-1 win.
Hernandez, who led the Royals (5-14) with just eight victories last year but did not post a win after July 22, was sent to the minor leagues after arriving at spring training overweight and lacking stamina.
“Seven innings, two hits, no walks—you don’t expect that out of anybody, really, not even a Cy Young winner,” Kansas City manager Buddy Bell said. “He looks pretty slim right now, huh?”
The Royals failed to homer for the sixth straight game and have hit just two in their last 10. Kansas City is last in the majors with 10 homers in 19 games.
Minnesota (8-12) scored its lone run when Justin Morneau snapped an 0-for-19 skid with his fifth homer and first since April 15.
The Twins have been outscored 44-17 while going 1-7 this season against AL Central foes. Minnesota also is 1-10 this year when scoring fewer than four runs.