Following a blustery day of baseball and a postponement due to cold conditions, the Minnesota Twins and the White Sox are likely to play under more unpleasant weather when Santana takes the mound at U.S. Cellular Field.
The series opener on Friday had to be postponed because of cold weather and strong gusts. Conditions weren’t much better Saturday with below freezing temperatures and winds at 19 mph, forcing players to bundle up significantly during Chicago’s 3-0 victory over the Twins (3-1).
“It wasn’t that cold at the World Series,” White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko said. “The other day it was a little bit warmer, it was snowing a little. Today, as far as cold, it was as bad as I’ve been in.”
Along with a mostly cloudy forecast Sunday, the temperature might not crack 40 degrees and the wind chill at game time could be below 30.
That doesn’t bode well for a pitcher who prefers taking the mound indoors - Santana has a 17-game winning streak at the Metrodome - and is hoping to avoid another slow start. He won the AL Cy Young Award last season despite going 1-3 with a 4.45 ERA in April, and had a less than stellar beginning to 2007.
Santana won Minnesota’s season opener on Monday despite allowing four runs and seven hits over six innings, walking two and striking out six in a 7-4 victory over Baltimore.
“He’s Johan. He finds a way to get it done,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
He certainly has against the White Sox (2-2) in recent years. Over his last 12 starts against them, Santana is 9-1 with a 1.44 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 87 1-3 innings. He’s lasted at least seven innings in all but one of those outings and has not given up more than three runs in any of them.
Opposing arguably the best pitcher in baseball and the reigning AL Central champions, not to mention AL MVP Justin Morneau and 2006 batting champ Joe Mauer, makes for an intimidating major league debut for Chicago starter John Danks.
“Honestly, I like our offense,” Danks told the team’s official Web site when asked about his matchup with Santana. “If I keep us in the game, I like our chances to win.”
The 21-year-old left-hander is getting a shot at the No. 5 spot in the White Sox rotation after being acquired in a Dec. 23 trade that sent Brandon McCarthy to Texas. Danks went 2-0 with a 4.32 ERA this spring before giving up six runs and eight hits in 4 2-3 innings against Arizona on March 28.
He went 9-9 with 154 strikeouts in 140 innings in the minors last season.
The White Sox can only hope he’s nearly as good as Javier Vazquez was on Saturday. Vazquez gave up one hit in 6 2-3 innings and combined with four relievers on a three-hitter.
It was the first strong outing this season from a Chicago starter. After Jose Contreras and Jon Garland were hit hard in the team’s first two games, Mark Buehrle left in the second inning Thursday when he was struck by a line drive. Buehrle said Saturday he hopes to make his next start despite having a sore and swollen left arm.
Twins starters, meanwhile, have provided four respectable outings and the team has allowed only 11 runs this season.
That trend may continue Sunday, considering how poorly many Chicago hitters have fared against Santana.
No batter in the majors has faced him more than Paul Konerko, and the All-Star first baseman has gone 6-for-45 (.133) with 15 strikeouts.
Konerko had two hits and an RBI on Saturday, as did Juan Uribe, but the White Sox shortstop has hit .167 (7-for-42) versus Santana.