The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner tries to lead the Twins to their 11th straight win over the Devil Rays at the Metrodome when they meet Friday night in the second of a four-game series.
The Twins (6-3) have outscored Tampa Bay 63-26 during their winning streak, which included a 3-2 victory on Thursday after Morneau led off the bottom of the ninth inning with a walk-off homer. It was the third homer this season for the reigning AL MVP, who is batting .352 with six homers and 18 RBIs in 19 career games against the Devil Rays (3-6).
Twins catcher Joe Mauer—last season’s AL batting champion—went 2-for-4 Thursday to boost his average this season to .364 while Michael Cuddyer hit a two-run homer and is hitting .440 during a seven-game hitting streak.
Morneau’s shot came after the Devil Rays rallied from a 2-0 deficit with a homer by Ty Wigginton and an RBI single by Carlos Pena in the eighth. Tampa Bay looked poised to go ahead in the ninth after a leadoff single by Ben Zobrist, but a base-running error by Carl Crawford after doubling resulted in a double play.
“That was crazy how quick it turned around,” Morneau said.
The Twins are hoping to put the game away much sooner with the dominant Santana (2-0, 2.77 ERA) on the mound. The left-hander is 17-0 with a 2.08 ERA in his last 24 starts at the Metrodome and has lasted at least six innings in all but one of those outings.
He has also enjoyed success versus Tampa Bay, posting a 3-0 record with a 1.86 ERA in his last four starts. Santana gave up two hits and one walk while striking out 12 over eight innings in an 8-0 win at Tampa Bay on Sept. 5.
He is coming off a 3-1 win over the Chicago White Sox on Sunday when he allowed just one hit, walked three and struck out nine over seven innings to improve to 10-1 in his last 13 starts against them. The Twins’ ace insists he approaches every start the same regardless of the opponent.
“I’ll do it to any team,” Santana said. “I don’t have any preference for any teams. I don’t disrespect any teams. … That’s the way I’ve been doing it. I’m always going to stay aggressive and do my job.”
Scott Kazmir (0-1, 6.75) looks to snap a winless streak that stretches back to before last year’s All-Star break. The left-hander, who was shut down in August because of soreness in his pitching shoulder, is 0-4 with a 3.99 ERA in his last eight starts since beating Boston on July 3.
He looked ready to end that skid Sunday when his first eight outs came via strikeout—including a team record six in a row. Over seven innings, Kazmir gave up two homers that plated four runs in a 6-3 defeat to Toronto.
“I really got into a groove early,” Kazmir said. “There’s just a couple of pitches I’d like to have back. There’s some things I can take out of today, positive things. Being aggressive and attacking the hitters.”
Kazmir is 0-3 with a 4.50 ERA in three career starts versus Minnesota.
Devil Rays rookie third baseman Akinori Iwamura was 1-for-3 Thursday. He’s hit safely in all nine games this season and leads the majors with a .433 batting average.