After a rough start to the season, Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana appears to be able to breathe a little easier.
In his first four starts of the year, Santana (2-3, 3.89 ERA) had three losses and a no-decision. He has won his last two starts since, allowing only four runs and 13 hits with one walk and 19 strikeouts in 15 innings.
The left-hander started May with a 5-1 win on Tuesday over Seattle, allowing a run and six hits with nine strikeouts over seven innings.
“He’s pretty intense right now,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. “No one wants to win any more than Johan. He’s all about winning. That’s why it’s fun to have him on your baseball team.
“When he goes out there, you can see it in his heart that he wants to win for this baseball team.”
Santana is 5-1 with a 3.00 ERA in nine appearances, including six starts, in Minnesota against the Tigers. Overall, he is 7-1 with a 2.82 ERA against them with 54 strikeouts and 18 walks in 60 2-3 innings pitched.
He has struggled, however, when facing Tigers right fielder Magglio Ordonez, who is hitting .421 (8-for-19) with two homers and nine RBIs lifetime.
Ordonez had two hits, including his eighth homer of the season, in a 7-6 loss Saturday.
After hitting at least 29 home runs each season with the Chicago White Sox from 1999-2003, Ordonez battled a knee injury and a hernia over the next two seasons and managed just 17 in 507 at-bats.
“He’s doing everything right now,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “When they make a tough pitch, he’s getting a base hit. When they’re making a mistake, he’s hitting a home run.”
The Twins won it in bottom of the ninth on Luis Castillo’s single past a drawn-in infield to improve to 3-3 in May.
Mike Maroth (4-1, 1.78) will try to become Detroit’s second five-game winner when he makes his sixth start this season. He limited Kansas City to a run and four hits over six innings in a 4-1 win Tuesday.
Maroth is off to the best start of his five-year career. In his last two seasons, it took him until June to win his fifth game. In 2003, he was 9-21 after going 6-10 in his rookie season.
“I think it has a lot to do with the team, the way we’re playing,” Maroth said. “When you’re sitting there watching, and you’re seeing the team playing good and winning, it gives you confidence when you go out there.”
Maroth has struggled in Minnesota, going 1-5 with a 5.07 ERA in eight career starts. He has allowed at least one home run in each of his last five starts there, and is looking for his first win since Aug. 2, 2003.
If Maroth wins, he would join Kenny Rogers, who has five wins to lead Detroit.