The Associated Press
SAN DIEGO–The slumping Minnesota Twins desperately needed a big game from Ervin Santana, who was more than happy to oblige.
Santana threw a four-hitter for his major league-best fifth complete game, and hit a two-run single, to lead the Twins to a 5-2 victory against the San Diego Padres yesterday.
The Twins won for just the second time in nine games.
They went 2-6 on a trip through Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Diego.
“He was the starter, the middle man, the set-up man, the closer, and a clutch hitter,” said Twins’ manager Paul Molitor.
“It was a pretty good day for him and us.”
Santana (12-7) retired his first 10 batters. He struck out nine and walked one in his 21st career complete game.
Complete games are old school these days.
“That’s why every time I get a chance, I want it because they’re not coming often,” said the 34-year-old Santana.
“Every time you’re close to it, you take advantage and you get it,” he added.
“It means a lot to me.”
The Twins traded all-star closer Brandon Kintzler to Washington on Monday, so Santana’s nine innings were big.
Molitor checked with Santana after the eighth.
“He asked me how I feel and I said, ‘I want the ninth,'” the pitcher noted.
“He said, ‘OK, it’s all yours.'”
“He wanted the ball, which is what you want to hear,” said Molitor.
“I trust him as much as anybody.
“My thought was, given the cushion, I wanted to make sure he felt OK,” Molitor added.
“It’s a little different given the circumstance that we are kind of toying with who is going finish games,” he noted.
“The fact that he had a three-run lead and he still had good stuff, I wanted to make sure he was OK to go back out there.”
Santana appreciated his manager’s confidence.
“It means durability,” he said. “It means you throw a lot of strikes and you do your job.”
Santana didn’t allow a baserunner until Cory Spangenberg singled to right with one out in the fourth.
Jose Pirela followed with a homer to centre to pull the Padres to 4-2.
“Everything was good,” Santana said. “First-pitch strikes.
“They’re very aggressive,” he said of the Padres. “Just get the ball down for the most part.”
“The slider is real,” said San Diego manager Andy Green. “It’s one of those pitches that down in the strike zone, it’s really tough to see, it’s really tough to pick up.
“So he does deserve some credit.
“I’d love to see more fight in our at-bats, more consistency in our at-bats, but he does deserve a measure of credit for going nine innings against us today.
“I don’t think there was a person every at-bat that was locked into him,” Green added.
“We had an occasional good at-bat. But overall, he handled us pretty easily.”
Joe Mauer had a double and single to tie Tony Oliva for third on Minnesota’s career hit list with 1,917.
The Twins jumped on Luis Perdomo (5-6) for four runs on four hits and two walks in the second.
Santana hit a bases-loaded single to right with two outs.
After Mauer walked to reload the bases, Eduardo Escobar hit a two-run single to left.
Santana was as aggressive at the plate as he was on the mound.
“First-pitch fastball, swinging,” he said. “Right field’s open.”
Minnesota’s Miguel Sano homered leading off the sixth.
Perdomo allowed seven hits in six innings, struck out four, and walked two.
The L.A. Angels blanked Philadelphia 7-0 and Oakland beat San Francisco 6-1 in other interleague action.