The Minnesota Twins are counting on their ace to help bounce back from a frustrating three-game sweep.
The Twins (58-59) fell to 1-5 on their nine-game road trip after being swept in a weekend series by the AL West-leading Angels. Minnesota, which also dropped two of three in Kansas City, has been held to three runs or less in 10 of 11 games this month.
The Angels also became the fifth team this season to hold the Twins to six or fewer runs in a three-game set, outscoring them 20-6.
“It’s not Disneyland in here right now. Guys are disappointed and frustrated,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We were facing very good pitching, and they were going against a team that has not been putting enough quality at-bats together to match up with that kind of pitching staff right now.”
The Twins have won their last four games against the Mariners (65-50), including all three meetings this season. Each of those victories came in Seattle.
However, the Mariners have improved significantly since they were 5-6 after being swept by Minnesota from April 17-19. Seattle has won 11 of its last 15 and remained one percentage point ahead of the New York Yankees for the AL wild card lead after Sunday’s 6-0 win over the Chicago White Sox.
Seattle, which trails the Angels by 3 1/2 games in the West, finished its road trip with a 5-1 record and is a season high-tying 15 games above .500.
Minnesota, which is seven games behind AL Central-leading Detroit and eight games in back of Seattle for the wild card, knows it needs wins.
“We have to go to Seattle and play another team that is hot and in the playoff hunt,” Minnesota catcher Mike Redmond told the Twins’ official Web site. “Hopefully we can get it going and find a way to score some runs.”
The Twins are counting on Santana (12-9, 2.98 ERA), who has dominated the Mariners in the past, going 7-1 with a 2.83 ERA in 15 career appearances - eight starts - against them. The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner is 6-0 in his last seven starts against Seattle, and his lone loss against them came in a 4 1-3-inning relief outing in 2002.
Santana gave up two runs - one earned - over seven innings in a 6-5 win in Seattle on April 19 during his only start against the Mariners this season. He also picked up Minnesota’s only win on its road trip, allowing two runs in six innings of an 11-4 win at Kansas City on Wednesday.
Santana, who had gone 0-3 in his previous four starts, left the game with a split nail on the middle finger of his pitching hand, but said it wouldn’t be a problem. The left-hander is 8-3 with a 2.51 ERA in 13 road starts in 2007, but also is trying to avoid losing 10 games in season for the first time in his eight-year career.
Hernandez (8-6, 3.97), meanwhile, is 2-2 with a 2.67 ERA in five career starts against the Twins. However, the right-hander was charged with three runs and recorded just one out before leaving with an injured left forearm in his only start against them this season, a 5-4 loss on April 18.
Hernandez gave up four runs and 10 hits in 6 2-3 innings of Wednesday’s 8-4 win in Baltimore, improving to 2-0 with a 3.74 ERA over his last three starts.
“I just wanted to throw a lot of strikes,” he told the Mariners’ official Web site. “That was the most important thing.”
Seattle left fielder Raul Ibanez batted .481 (13-for-27) with five homers and 11 RBIs during Seattle’s road trip. He’s 11-for-28 (.393) with one homer and eight RBIs all-time against Santana.