DETROIT — The Minnesota Twins are finally seeing the Hector Santiago they expected when they acquired him from the Los Angeles Angels at the trade deadline.
Santiago held the Detroit Tigers to one run in 5 2/3 innings on Thursday as the Twins earned a split of the four-game series with a 5-1 win.
“Hector had to dance out of trouble a few times, but he did a nice job,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “If he pitches like this, his spot with us next year will take care of itself.”
Santiago lost his first four starts with the Twins, posting a 10.89 ERA, but he’s 2-0 in the last four with a 1.82 ERA.
“I made some adjustments when I got here, but I ended up leaving a bunch of pitches over the plate,” he said. “Now I’m back to trying to throw good pitches, not just getting strike one.”
Santiago only got one groundball out and three strikeouts.
“I had really good command of the fastball, so I was able to keep jamming guys up and in,” he said. “They kept popping it up, so I kept throwing it.”
The Tigers can little afford losses in the crowded AL wild-card race. Detroit came into the series with a 10-2 record against Minnesota.
“This is obviously not what we wanted,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “Any time you lose four out of seven, it isn’t a good homestand.”
Mike Pelfrey (4-10) lost in his first major-league appearance since July 31. He started the game with a 60-pitch limit, but only lasted 36, giving up four runs on five hits in 1 2/3 innings.
The Twins took the lead in the second on Max Kepler’s RBI single, and he moved to third when Miguel Cabrera missed a pick-off attempt. Eduardo Escobar singled to make it 2-0, and Eddie Rosario beat out a bunt single.
Juan Centeno bunted the runners over, and Pelfrey retired Byron Buxton. That brought up Brian Dozier with two on, two out and first base open. Despite his torrid numbers in the second half, Ausmus decided to pitch to him.
“With the bases loaded, you don’t have any room to maneuver,” he said. “If he grounds out to third, no one is asking me about it.”
Instead, Dozier lined a soft single to left to give the Twins a 4-0 lead and bring Blaine Hardy out of the bullpen.
“Our guys were going to attack Mike’s fastball,” Molitor said of Pelfrey, who spent the last three seasons with the Twins. “That helped us get those two early runs, and then Dozier came up with that huge hit to get the lead from two to four.”
The Tigers had two runners on in the third, fourth and fifth innings, but Santiago escaped all three jams without allowing a run.
Twins: 3B Miguel Sano flew back to Minnesota to have more tests run on his sore back. Sano left Monday’s game, and said that the problem hasn’t improved. He will miss the weekend series against the Mets, but could return next week when the Twins return home.
OLYMPIC WEEK CONCLUDES
For the fourth day in a row, the Tigers had a Rio Olympic medalist throw out the ceremonial first pitch. On Thursday, it was swimmer Connor Jaeger, who won silver in the 1,500-meter freestyle. Jaeger swam for Michigan.
With the Tigers fighting for a playoff spot, they have been badly let down by their starting pitching. In the last three games of the Twins series, Pelfrey, Anibal Sanchez and Matt Boyd combined to allow 17 runs in 9 1/3 innings.
Twins: Travel to New York for a three-game weekend series against the Mets. Friday night, Minnesota’s Jose Berrios (2-6. 9.27) faces New York’s Bartolo Colon (13-7, 3.27).
Tigers: Head to Cleveland for a three-game series and their last chance to get back into the AL Central race. Rookie of the Year favorite Michael Fulmer (10-6, 2.76) goes up against Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber (16-9, 3.05) in the opener.