Johan Santana probably will not win his second straight AL Cy Young award this year, and he almost certainly won’t lead the Minnesota Twins back to the playoffs. However, he still has the ability to dominate most opponents.
Santana looks to continue his mastery of the Chicago White Sox and help the Twins avoid a three-game sweep when the teams conclude their series on Sunday.
Last year, Santana (14-11, 3.15 ERA) was instrumental in Minnesota’s run to a 96-win season and the AL Central title, going 19-6 to capture his second Cy Young in three years.The 2007 season has not been nearly as pleasant. Despite his low ERA, the Twins (69-73) are in danger of finishing with a losing record for the first time in seven years.
Following a 13-inning, 11-10 defeat in Friday night’s series opener, Minnesota suffered its season-high sixth straight loss, 8-7 on Saturday. Jim Thome hit his 497th career home run in the first inning and added the go-ahead RBI single in the seventh for the White Sox, who won for just the seventh time in 26 games.
The Twins will now try to avoid losing seven in a row for the first time since an eight-game skid July 5-13, 2003.
On Monday, Santana lost to AL Central-leading Cleveland for the second time in less than a week and the fifth time this season. The left-hander gave up four runs over six innings but got outpitched by the Indians’ C.C. Sabathia in a 5-0 defeat.
Santana has received two runs of support or less in 10 of his 11 losses in 2007.
“He’s gone out and given us a chance to win every stinking baseball game,” a frustrated Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Although Santana is winless in six starts versus the Indians this season, he is 14-6 with a 2.84 ERA in his other 23 outings. Those include two victories over the White Sox (61-81) in which he’s yielded only four runs and eight hits over 15 innings while striking out 16.
Since the 2004 All-Star break, Santana is 11-1 with a 1.58 ERA in 14 starts versus the White Sox. Lifetime, he is 12-5 with a 3.12 ERA in 26 appearances - 20 starts - against them.
Chicago’s Jon Garland (9-10, 4.75 ERA), meanwhile, has had a terrible time in two starts versus Minnesota this season, losing his only decision while allowing a total of 18 runs and 16 hits in 9 1-3 innings.
On July 6 at US Cellular Field, the Twins reached Garland for a career-high 11 earned runs, 11 hits and three walks in just 3 1-3 innings of a 20-14 White Sox defeat.
After consecutive 18-win seasons, Garland is still trying to break into double figures in victories this year. The right-hander pitched well Tuesday at Detroit, though, limiting the Tigers to one run and seven hits without a walk in seven innings to earn a 3-1 win.
“That’s the Jon Garland who won 18 games (in 2005, and 2006), you got it tonight,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said of his starter who had gone 0-3 with a 8.49 ERA in six starts during August. “Pitching to early contact, was aggressive to the plate. That’s the way he’s been pitching for me for a long time.”
Chicago is going for its first three-game sweep at home since Aug. 11-13, 2006, against Detroit.