The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner tries to avoid going winless for a fourth straight start Tuesday when the Twins continue their three-game series against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium.
Santana (6-6, 3.19 ERA) has pitched well in his last two starts - giving up five runs in 14 innings - but only has one loss to show for it. The left-hander limited the Atlanta Braves to two runs in seven innings Thursday to keep the Twins (34-34) close before they rallied for three ninth-inning runs in a 3-2 victory.
“That’s the way it has been. There’s nothing I can do. I just hope that my teammates will be able to score runs and put pressure on the opponent,” Santana said after his last start.
The lack of run support has frustrated Santana, who has seen the Twins score three runs or less in 10 of his 14 starts, including a combined three in his last three appearances. He has lobbied Ron Gardenhire to increase his pitch count to go deeper into games, but his manager has steadfastly refused.
“I’m set in my ways, and I’m not going to go out and let Johan throw 150 pitches, even if he wants to,” Gardenhire told the Twins’ official Web site. “Obviously, if you are any kind of competitor at all, you want to go back out there. Guys don’t want to come out. We have a pretty good system that’s worked pretty well here for all of our pitchers. Johan has a pretty good career going, and I’d like to keep it going.”
The good news for Santana, who has not gone four starts without a win since opening the 2006 season 0-3, is that he has thrived in interleague play - especially on the road. The left-hander is 7-1 with a 2.25 ERA in eight starts and 14 appearances at NL ballparks, including a victory at Shea Stadium in 2002.
He is 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Mets, striking out 17 in 13 innings. Overall, Santana is 13-4 with a 2.36 ERA in 22 interleague starts.
In facing Santana, the Mets (38-30) have a difficult challenge in recording back-to-back wins for the first time this month. Carlos Delgado and Ricky Ledee each homered in Monday’s series-opening 8-1 rout, just New York’s fourth victory in the last 16 games.
Paul Lo Duca also delivered by hitting a key two-run single in the sixth inning to make it 4-0.
“I got a hit when it counted finally,” said Lo Duca, who had gone nine games without an RBI. “That’s the best game we’ve played in a long time. It’s good to get everybody going.”
Jorge Sosa (6-2, 3.42) looks to bounce back from his worst outing of the season when he takes the mound for New York Tuesday. The right-hander was tagged for six runs and eight hits in 5 2-3 innings of a 9-1 defeat to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday, ending a personal three-start winning streak.
Sosa has been masterful at home, though, going 3-0 with a 1.77 ERA in three starts. He has conceded just four runs in 20 1-3 innings in those outings.
Sosa has recorded 3 2-3 hitless innings spanning three relief appearances against the Twins.