Ervin the escape artist denies Astros

Santana faces two bases-loaded jams, gets away unscathed

Ervin the escape artist denies Astros

HOUSTON -- All-Star right-hander Ervin Santana acknowledged that he didn't have his best stuff on Saturday against the Astros, by far the best hitting team in the American League.

But where Santana excelled, in the middle of a three-game series at Minute Maid Park, was in limiting the damage in a 4-2 Minnesota win. Twice he pitched out of bases-loaded jams, and reliever Taylor Rogers came out unscathed after inheriting a bases-juiced jam in the seventh, with the Twins preserving the two-run lead.

"That was tough," said Santana in describing the bases-loaded situations in the second and fourth innings. "They've been scoring, like, 10 runs per game.

"When you don't have your best stuff and only give up two runs against that team ... I just tried to make a good pitch every time."

Santana (11-6), who allowed only two runs and five hits over six innings, gave up one run in bases-loaded situations. He made the pitches when he needed to, keeping the Astros from striking for a big inning.

In the second, Santana loaded the bases and faced George Springer after allowing an RBI double to Yuli Gurriel. Santana walked Marwin Gonzalez and Alex Bregman, bringing up Springer, who has 27 home runs and 62 RBIs.

On the first pitch of the at-bat, Springer took a mighty whack at Santana's 87.5-mph pitch at a 59-degree launch angle, according to Statcast™. Springer popped out to short right field to end the inning.

Two innings later, Santana faced another threat, with the Astros again loading the bases. This time, with two outs, Santana faced another All-Star in Jose Altuve, who had homered in his previous at-bat, leading off the third inning. Santana induced Altuve to ground out to third.

Santana works out of a jam

"He found a way," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "He stranded some runners, made some big pitches to some really good hitters with two outs. [He held] the damage to two runs and got through six innings when his pitch count got up there pretty quickly in the first couple of innings."

Getting out of bases-loaded jams wasn't limited to Santana. Rogers inherited a messy situation in the seventh when he entered in relief of Tyler Duffey with the bases loaded and the Twins trying to protect the 4-2 lead.

Up came Gurriel, who had two hits off Santana and was robbed of a third on an outstanding running grab by center fielder Zack Granite leading off the sixth, but Rogers got him to ground out to second base.

Richard Dean is a contributor to based in Houston and covered the Twins on Saturday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.