In 2004, Boston’s Curt Schilling had one of the finest seasons of his 19-year career to merit strong consideration for his first Cy Young Award. The Red Sox ace, though, was denied that honor by Minnesota Twins left-hander Johan Santana.
The pitchers meet for the first time Tuesday in a matchup of two of the AL’s best when the Red Sox (36-25) and Twins (28-34) open a three-game series at the Metrodome.
Schilling was 21-6 with a 3.26 ERA and struck out 203 in 2004, but he finished second in the Cy Young voting to Santana, who was a unanimous selection for the award. The left-hander went 20-6 with a 2.61 ERA and an AL-best 265 strikeouts.
Both pitchers have been dominant again this season, with Schilling (9-2, 3.81 ERA) bouncing back from ankle surgery that limited him to an 8-8 mark with a 5.69 ERA last year. The right-hander is trying to become the first 10-game winner in the major leagues, and is 4-0 in five starts since losing to the New York Yankees on May 10.
“You’ve got to have guys you can lean on,” Boston manager Terry Francona said. “On good staffs there always is that guy.”
Schilling has beaten the Yankees twice during his unbeaten streak, including a 9-3 victory Thursday in his last outing. He gave up three runs, all on solo homers, and four hits over eight innings.
“It was another weird game,” said Schilling, who retired the final 12 batters he faced. “I go through periods like that and it’s no singles (allowed). That’s the way it’s going. Mentally, I’m trying to stay positive. I’m still searching.”
Schilling, whose two losses this season have come on the road, will be making his first career start at the Metrodome. The right-hander, who made 21 of his 32 appearances last season in relief, has pitched in three games at the stadium. He struck out the only Twins batter he faced Aug. 7 at Minnesota to get the save in the Red Sox’s 11-7 victory.
Schilling has a 4.73 ERA in eight road starts this season, compared with 2.50 in five games at Fenway Park.
Santana (6-4, 3.16), meanwhile, has yet to lose at home this season, going 3-0 with 44 strikeouts and just six walks in six starts. He’s also 3-0 in his last four starts against Boston after dropping his first three decisions against the Red Sox.
In his last outing, Santana allowed six baserunners in the first three innings, but limited Seattle to a run and five hits over five innings of a 7-3 win Thursday.
“It was kind of a wild game to pitch,” Santana said of his shortest outing of the season. “I was trying to establish the strike zone (all day).”
Boston, which holds a one-game lead over the Yankees for the AL East lead, is coming off a split of a doubleheader with Texas on Sunday. Former Twin David Ortiz hit a three-run walk-off homer with two strikes and two out in the bottom of the ninth inning to lift Boston to a 5-4 win in the opener.
“The way things are going right now, I really want to put a good swing on the ball,” Ortiz said. “The only ball they can’t take away from me is the one I hit out of the park.”
Boston gave up 22 hits in a 13-6 loss in the second contest.
The Twins have won three of their last four, including a 4-0 victory over Baltimore on Sunday. Rookie Francisco Liriano allowed one hit over seven innings and catcher Joe Mauer continued his red-hot hitting.
Named the AL’s player of the week Monday, Mauer had a hit Sunday to give him one in 19 of his last 20 games. He’s batting .506 with 18 runs, three homers, 13 RBIs and 11 walks during that span.
Mauer has struck out once this month, and he reached base four times in five straight games.
“He seems to be on just about anything they throw up there,” manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Minnesota, though, sits in fourth place in the AL Central, 12 games behind first-place Detroit.