Ervin Santana was able to grind through six innings despite having trouble gripping his trusty slider in 40-degree weather, but the Minnesota Twins offense only produced two runs and Taylor Rogers and Matt Belisle walked in runs with the bases loaded in a three-run seventh inning that ultimately led to a 6-2 loss.
The Twins, who began the year 5-0, are now 7-8. The division rival Cleveland Indians took three straight games and sit at 8-7.
“I wouldn’t say it was one of his better performances in terms of command, it was a cool day,” said manager Paul Molitor after the game. “I think he had a little trouble with his grip on his off-speed pitches. His change-up was pretty good, the slider maybe not so much. But he held down a good lineup and gave us a lead after six innings. You couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Santana confirmed this in his postgame scrum. As you can see in the video below, he explains why he used his changeups frequently than he usually does:
22 changeups from Santana. Roughly twice his usual frequency. https://t.co/37PVDy7fAt
— Brandon Warne (@Brandon_Warne) April 20, 2017
Santana, by the way, had his streak of 22 scoreless innings snapped in the fifth inning and has thrown at least 6.0 innings in each of his four starts this season.
“Well, we didn’t contain there at the end. We’re not scoring enough, we’re having trouble putting runs on the board. I don’t know how many hits we ended up with today — a handful maybe. But when you get a lead late, you wanna try to find a way to win it,” said Molitor.
“They got the comebacker that hit off [Tyler] Duffey and then they got the swinging bunt, and then Rogers came in and he was throwing the ball well, but Santana turned on one and that kinda changed the tide of the game.”
To be specific, in that fateful 7th inning Michael Martinez, who came in for Yandy Diaz, got an infield single off that comebacker and then Duffey struck out Abraham Almonte. Yan Gomes, who substituted for the No. 9 hitter Roberto Perez, singled off of Rogers.
Rogers then gave up a double to Carlos Santana, which tied the game 2-2. Molitor then called for Francisco Lindor to be intentionally walked.
“Well, Rogers is a strike-thrower, and he got ahead of Brantley 0-2 and kept on trying to pound him in,” said Rogers in explaining his decision. “I think he fouled off one breaking pitch in the sequence after he got ahead, but made some close pitches and certainly when you load the bases with an intentional walk there’s always that risk.”
Rogers walks Brantley, and the Indians take a 3-2 lead. Then Matt Belisle came in, got Edwin Encarnacion to pop out, but then walked Jose Ramirez with the bases loaded, giving Cleveland the 4-2 lead.
Rogers was available in the clubhouse and explains the sequence in the video below:
The Indians tacked on two insurance runs in the 9th inning, and are tied with the Detroit Tigers for first in the AL Central. It’s a tightly-packed division, with every team basically at .500.
There are two other notable things from the game.
- Molitor got ejected in the 8th inning for arguing balls and strikes with home plate umpire Alan Porter. “It was a little tough to gauge,” Molitor said of the strike zone. “I thought there was some inconsistencies today, but [pause] probably not the difference in the game. I just felt on that particular check-swing that it was close. I haven’t even looked at it, to be honest with you, but that’s a hard call for him to make if he’s tracking the pitch.
“That’s what they have the rule for.”
- Secondly, Molitor pinch-hit Eduardo Escobar for Byron Buxton in the 7th inning. “I really don’t look forward to pinch-hitting for guys in certain situations, especially when you have almost three innings left to play. I just thought with the matchup, I thought I’d give one of my lefties a shot in Escobar,” said Molitor. “He had a really nice at-bat. But it’s just one of those things where he’s having a tough time getting hits right now, and you don’t know how many opportunities you’re gonna get, so I made the switch.”
The offense as a whole is scuffling right now, as Molitor acknowledged after the game. “I think it’s a little to early to think that anybody’s overly-pressing,” he said. “We’ve dissected a few of our guys more than others, but it hasn’t been top-to-bottom very often, and we’re just trying to find a way to get some of these guys going.”
Dozier said he’s not too worried about the offense just yet, and offers his rationale in the video below:
In the end, Santana gave the team a great start and the offense and bullpen should have picked him up today.