The Twins go for their fourth straight win away from home and a three-game sweep of the Seattle Mariners as the teams meet in the series finale on Thursday at Safeco Field.
Minnesota (9-5) has outscored opponents 19-7 in its last three road wins, including a 5-4 victory over Seattle on Wednesday. The Mariners (5-5) made the win difficult as Jose Vidro hit a run-scoring single with two outs in the ninth to cut the deficit to one run, but Adrian Beltre was waved home from first base on the play and thrown out by Luis Castillo to end the game.
The Twins road-winning streak began with a dominant performance from Santana (2-1, 3.60 ERA), and he’ll look for a similar showing on Thursday. The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner held the Chicago White Sox to one hit over seven shutout innings while striking out nine in a 3-1 road victory on April 8.
Santana is looking to rebound after having a lengthy home-winning streak snapped in his last start. He had gone 17-0 in his previous 24 starts at the Metrodome before falling 4-2 to Tampa Bay on Friday, when he allowed four runs and six hits over seven innings while striking out 10.
“You’ve just got to focus on your next start and give your team a chance to win the next game,” said Santana, who threw 70 of his 98 pitches for strikes.
The left-hander is 6-1 with a 3.00 ERA in 14 career games versus Seattle, including a 5-0 mark with a 2.37 ERA in his last six starts. He will be opposed by Jarrod Washburn (0-1, 3.75), who is still looking for his first win of the season.
Washburn allowed three earned runs and seven hits over six innings in a 5-2 defeat to Texas on Friday, which was his first start in 10 days due to weather postponements. The left-hander is 5-3 with a 3.52 ERA in 11 lifetime starts versus the Twins and 4-1 with a 2.84 ERA in his last five starts against them.
The Mariners rotation may have taken a major blow Wednesday when Felix Hernandez left with tightness in his pitching elbow in the first inning. The 21-year-old phenom left “for precautionary reasons” and was scheduled to be re-evaluated Thursday.
Mariners manager Mike Hargrove said his “gut feeling” was his franchise pitcher was going to be OK, but added, “I have nothing to base it on.”
Seattle is trying to avoid losing its first series of the season and falling below .500 at home. Richie Sexson hit a three-run homer in the sixth inning Wednesday, while Ichiro Suzuki went 2-for-5 and is 10-for-26 (.385) with two triples during his career versus Santana.
All-Star second baseman Jose Lopez recorded a hit in the defeat after agreeing to a new four-year contract with the Mariners that includes a club option for 2011.
The Twins played without center fielder Torii Hunter on Wednesday, who bruised his left shoulder while trying to make a catch on Tuesday. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he wouldn’t know until after batting practice Thursday whether Hunter will be in the lineup.