The Minnesota Twins found a window to get Saturday afternoon’s game in between patches of rain, and it did not disappoint as Ervin Santana (3-0) dominated the White Sox from stem to stern in a complete game shutout at Target Field in a 6-0 win.

Santana faced just two batters over the minimum on the afternoon, and needed just 107 pitches (72 strikes) to mow down the White Sox and improve his season ERA to a minuscule 0.41.

On the other side of things, the Twins offense jumped Jose Quintana (0-3) for five quick runs in the first inning before tacking on another in the eighth to cap the scoring. In all, the Twins had six extra-base hits coming from five different players to go along with five walks on the day.

The game had a getaway day feel despite there still being one more game in the series — the rubber game on Sunday which pits James Shields against Hector Santiago — as it was played in a tidy two hours, 26 minutes.

Here’s what we saw from our vantage point:

Santana was absolutely incredible

Maybe what was most amazing on Saturday was that Santana did this against a team he was coming off facing less than a week ago. He was good in that game last Sunday — six shutout innings, two hits allowed with four strikeouts and two walks — but he was absolutely masterful on Saturday.

Pretty much everything was working for Santana, who threw 50 four-seamers, 43 sliders and 14 changeups. He got seven of his 11 swinging strikes on the slider — not surprising considering it’s his go-to pitch — but also managed to get three swinging strikes on his four-seamer. “I think the biggest thing for him was that he was able to put his slider wherever he wanted,” catcher Chris Gimenez said after the game.

It was Santana’s 17th career complete game and ninth shutout. His most recent shutout — incidentally, also the most recent one for the Twins — came on July 6, 2016 against the Oakland A’s, and was most likely a catalyst for his strong second half (2.65 ERA, 8.3 K/9, 1.14 WHIP) last season. That too was also thrown with a backup catcher (Juan Centeno) behind the plate, oddly enough. This was the 17th one-hitter in club history, with the most recent being a collaborative effort between Anthony Swarzak, Matt Capps and Alex Burnett on May 28, 2011 against the Angels.  

If you want an amazing fact about Santana’s day, try this one on for size:

Santana closed his day out by retiring the final 18 batters he faced, with an Avisail Garcia walk to open the fourth inning and a single to right-center off the bat of Omar Narvaez in the third as the only marks against him.

The offense jumped Quintana fast, but he settled in afterward….somewhat

Every Twins hitter had at least one hit on the day, and they could have scored more runs if they cashed in opportunities. Not only did they score a respectable six runs on Quintana and his allies, but they also went just 4-of-16 with runners in scoring position — stranding 10 runners in the process. In short, it seems like the damage the Twins should have done to Dylan Covey on Friday night translated into a shellacking of Quintana — a much more accomplished pitcher — on Saturday.

After allowing five runs and facing 11 batters in the first, Quintana didn’t allow another run the rest of the way, though he did have to hop over a couple self-induced puddles along the way. In the second he worked around a booming double off the bat of Gimenez, and in the third he did the same after allowing a double to Kepler and a walk to Robbie Grossman. He set the Twins down in order in the fourth and faced only three batters thanks to a Danny Santana double play ball in the fifth. His day ended in the sixth, when he allowed a Byron Buxton double followed by a Miguel Sano walk two batters later, though Michael Ynoa got Jorge Polanco to pop into foul territory to end the threat.

Here’s why Buxton can’t bunt more often

Basically speaking, teams are employing a sort of Buxton shift. They’re bringing in the third baseman virtually every time he comes to the plate, including having the third baseman take a couple steps in as the pitcher works through his motion.

Take note of where the third baseman is when this pitch is thrown. This also happened to be snapped as Buxton was hit by a pitch. Ouch!

The balls Buxton has put in play toward third base have been slow rollers — in this game a broken bat chopper and in Friday night’s a ball with an exit velocity under 60 mph — so opposing teams’ third basemen haven’t been put too much into a line of danger while taking away any potential for a bunt.

Beyond that, bunting for hits isn’t beneficial to developing Buxton as a player in the long-term. Sure, he could hit .250 bunting a bunch, but that won’t make him a good player for the long run. It will make him…..stomachable (?) in the short-term. That’s not a good process.

Grossman is hitting like a man on fire so far this season

Grossman doubled, singled and took a pair of walks and is hitting a stellar .296/.472/.419 on the season. Now obviously that won’t continue, but he does have the look of someone who can hit leadoff no matter where Brian Dozier is playing. In this case, Dozier was out of the lineup with a minor right knee issue, though he was available off the bench. If Grossman can bat leadoff, that frees up Paul Molitor to lengthen the lineup with Dozier further down.  

Polanco had another solid game — more so on the defensive end

There was never much of a question that Polanco would hit — though a .282/.333/.436 line might qualify as a nice surprise — but he’s really looked the part at shortstop so far this season. He’s not only made some fairly nice, flashy plays, but he’s just flat out making the ones he needs to. Errors don’t tell much of the story, but to have just one through 10 games is fairly solid for the 23-year-old shortstop. Beyond that — small sample size alert! — he grades out positively in Fangraphs’ defensive rankings thus far this season. A good bat and even average defense makes for a really, really good shortstop these days. Heck, any day.

Max Kepler’s slash line is quietly creeping up

After coming into the game 1-for-10 against left-handed pitchers, Kepler doubled and tripled against Quintana in the first three innings of the game. He finished the day hitting a solid .282/.349/.513 on the season, which seems like a fairly good line for the German to shoot for. If he can do that, it would seem likely he’d settle in with about 20 homers and 40 doubles. The Twins would absolutely take that.

I thought Danny Santana made a really good read to score the Twins’ final run in the eighth

Santana singled up the middle against Ynoa to open the eighth and moved to second when Buxton was hit by a pitch. Grossman followed with a line drive single that just evaded shortstop Tim Anderson’s glove, with Santana off to the races to score the game’s final run.

Now, I say this is a good read because of where the ball was hit. The old adage with under two outs is “freeze on a line drive” if you’re on base. We’ve all learned that even back to our youth days. But when the ball is hit where it was — near Anderson at short — and with Santana taking a good secondary lead, he’s a dead duck no matter if he freezes or not. A first step back to second base means he probably doesn’t score — and just isn’t good baseball instincts — and if he freezes he’s still doubled up due to the length of his secondary lead, assuming second baseman Yolmer Sanchez covers in a timely fashion. It might have just been a reaction play, but I happen to think it was the right one.

Hopefully you could keep up with all the No. 42 jerseys floating around

It can be a scorekeeper’s nightmare, but the 70th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier is one of the best days of the season, in my opinion. It stands for everything that is right not only in the game, but in life.

One cool way that Jackie was remembered was in how Anderson — shortstop for the White Sox — dressed as he headed to the ballpark. Check it out! He looks pretty dapper:

Notes

  • The 2:26 time of game was the shortest for the Twins this season — 13 minutes shorter than Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the Tigers (2:39). The Twins played nine games at 2:26 or shorter last season, with the most recent coming on Sept. 24 — a 3-2 win over Seattle.
  • The Twins improved not only to 4-1 at Target Field, but also in games against left-handed starting pitchers, per the game notes.
  • Miguel Sano has 11 walks in 11 games and has reached base in each game to start the season. He’s hitting an incredible .286/.457/.714.

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