Robin Ventura gave the ball right back to his 24-year-old rookie left-hander who shut down the Texas Rangers with a perfect ninth inning in a 4-3 victory Saturday night.
“I tried to give him his first manager win, it’s a big one,” said Santiago, who himself had appeared in only two major league games beforehand. “To be able to keep that ball is great.”
Alex Rios led off the top of the ninth with a homer off veteran and new Rangers closer Joe Nathan. Santiago then needed only 11 pitches to close the door on the two-time defending American League champions who had gotten their new rings before the game.
Rios homered on a 1-2 count off Nathan (0-1) who got a save—No. 262 in his career—with a perfect inning in the season opener a day earlier but entered a tie game this time.
“I don’t think he meant to put that pitch where he threw it, and I got a good swing on it,” Rios said.
The homer to Rios cleared the 8-foot wall in center field just out of the reach of leaping Josh Hamilton.
“It was a fastball I tried to elevate higher than it was. I felt if he did take a swing he wouldn’t be able to hit it the way he did. I made him beat me to the deepest part of the park,” Nathan said. “I’ve faced him quite a bit. It’s that cat-and-mouse game, and I lost. He guessed right, I think, and I did miss a little bit.”
Paul Konerko drove in three runs for the White Sox in his 2,000th career game.
Ventura, who hadn’t previously said publicly who his closer would be, handed the ball to Santiago after the White Sox got a one-run lead.
“Just pitch to my strengths, go at them, do what I do, throw my pitches and hopefully get over the plate and get them out like I did tonight,” Santiago said. “This is a huge opportunity. I’ll do everything in my power I can to stay in this role, and succeed.”
Peavy, the 2007 NL Cy Young winner, hadn’t started since last Sept. 6. The right-hander was shut down for the rest of the season after going 7-7 in his comeback from shoulder surgery in 2010.
Holland made his first start since getting a new $28.5 million, five-year contract from Texas last month. That deal goes through 2016 and includes two club options after that.
The 25-year-old left-hander finished last season allowing only two hits in 8 1-3 scoreless innings in Game 4 of the World Series against St. Louis at Rangers Ballpark, but the White Sox got on the board in a hurry against Holland.
Alejandro De Aza led off the game with a single, stole second and came home on a two-out single by Konerko.
De Aza reached in the third when Holland was charged with an error after dropping a comebacker, but the speedy center fielder was promptly picked off first base.
Holland walked the next two batters before Konerko’s two-run double made it 3-1.
The Rangers got even in the bottom of the third when Ian Kinsler had a leadoff triple, after De Aza dived for the ball that scooted past his glove toward the wall. Elvis Andrus then had an RBI single, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Adrian Beltre.
Napoli had an RBI single in the second.
“You’ve got to like the way we’re competing out there,” Konerko said. “Our pitchers, to hold that lineup to three runs two games in a row … hopefully we can do it one more day and get out of here before they kill somebody because they have a pretty good lineup.”
NOTES: Konerko has played all but 81 of his games with the White Sox in his 15-year career. … Lefty Matt Harrison, 2-0 with a 3.54 ERA in five career starts against the White Sox, makes his 2012 debut for the Rangers in Sunday’s finale. … RHP Gavin Floyd, who starts for Chicago on Sunday night, allowed only two runs (one earned) and six hits over 14 innings in his two starts against Texas last season. … 1B/OF Brad Hawpe, released by the Rangers late in spring training, has signed a minor league deal with the organization and assigned to Double-A Frisco. He is rebuilding arm strength in a return from left elbow surgery last August. … Texas players and staff were presented their 2011 American League championship rings, 48 in all, before the game.