Santana puts his perfect record since the All-Star break on the line against fellow double-digit winner Jeremy Bonderman as the Twins and Detroit Tigers conclude their three-game series Wednesday night at Comerica Park.
Minnesota (66-46) defeated the Tigers 4-2 on Tuesday, evening the series and snapping a couple of streaks in the process. The Twins ended Detroit’s four-game run and also won for the first time in their last nine games at Comerica.
The victory moved the Twins to within 9 1/2 games of the first-place Tigers (76-37) in the AL Central, but perhaps more importantly, Minnesota moved one-half game ahead of the Boston Red Sox for second place and remained one-half game behind the Chicago White Sox in the AL wild-card race.
The Twins received some potentially devastating news on Tuesday, though, as manager Ron Gardenhire said there was a “99.999” percent chance Liriano would be placed on the DL due to inflammation in his left forearm.
Liriano, who is 12-3 with a league-leading 2.19 ERA after suffering the loss in Monday night’s series opener, will undergo an MRI on Thursday when the Twins return home.
“Everybody knows where we stand with our young pitcher, but we’re not going to let it knock us down,” Gardenhire said. “You have to just keep playing. There are 25 other guys in that clubhouse that know we have a job to do—to pick it up with Liriano out.”
With Liriano out, Santana (12-5, 3.22 ERA) may take on an even more important role for Minnesota. The 2004 AL Cy Young Award winner has been nearly unbeatable in the season’s second half the last few years, going 33-3 with a 2.31 ERA in 49 starts after the break since 2003.
Santana has a 4.31 ERA since this year’s break, but also has a 3-0 record as the Twins have won all five of his outings. Minnesota has won 14 of Santana’s last 15 starts, including last Friday at Kansas City, when he gave up four runs in six innings as the Twins rallied for an 8-5, 10-inning win.
The left-hander is 8-2 with a 2.66 ERA in 19 career appearances against the Tigers, including 13 starts. Detroit right fielder Magglio Ordonez has had success against Santana, though, going 11-for-28 (.393) with three homers, three doubles and a triple in their meetings.
While Santana has fared well against the Tigers, Bonderman (11-5, 3.81) has had problems versus Minnesota. The right-hander is 2-5 with a 6.17 ERA and a .336 opponent batting average in 10 career appearances against the Twins.
Minnesota center fielder Torii Hunter is 11-for-21 (.524) in his career against Bonderman with five doubles and a triple.
Bonderman is 0-1 in his last two outings following a personal four-start winning streak. He gave up five runs, seven hits and three walks in 5 2-3 innings Friday against Cleveland, but did not get a decision in Detroit’s 7-6 victory.
Tuesday’s defeat was the first at home since July 22 for the Tigers, who have won eight of their last 10 games at Comerica Park.