NEW YORK -- As Ervin Santana sat at the podium in the news conference room at Yankee Stadium on Monday in advance of his start in tonight's American League Wild Card Game, he was asked about his record at the ballpark since it opened in 2009.:: AL Wild Card Game
NEW YORK -- As Ervin Santana sat at the podium in the news conference room at Yankee Stadium on Monday in advance of his start in tonight's American League Wild Card Game, he was asked about his record at the ballpark since it opened in 2009.
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Santana asked how many times he'd pitched at the stadium -- six times -- and then asked how many times he'd won, and he came back with a quip when he was told he was 0-5 with a 6.43 ERA at the third iteration of the ballpark.
"Tomorrow is going to be one," Santana said with a smile.
Not much gets to the 13-year veteran, who will be matched up with fellow Dominican Republic native Luis Severino. Severino (2.98 ERA) and Santana (3.28 ERA) had the two best ERAs among starters from the Dominican Republic, and they also finished No. 1 and No. 2 in Wins Above Replacement among Dominican starters.
"It's two Dominicans going at it," Santana said. "It's a one-game playoff, and anything can happen."
Santana has the advantage of postseason experience over Severino, including a career 3.27 ERA in 11 innings against New York in the postseason during his time with the Angels. Both pitchers possess electric sliders -- it remains Santana's out pitch, generating 205 swings and misses this year, which only trails sliders from Chris Archer, Patrick Corbin, Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw.
"What makes him so effective is his ability to locate," said catcher Jason Castro, who helped Santana to a 2.73 ERA in the 25 times he caught him this year. "The quality of the stuff is definitely there. But he can throw anything at any time and is confident in all his pitches. He doesn't fall into patterns because of his command and trust of his stuff. But his slider has been his bread and butter."
The 12 players on the Yankees who have faced Santana have combined to hit .272/.316/.481 against him with eight homers in 162 at-bats. Castro could play a factor in neutralizing the lineup with his pitch-calling, as he was behind the plate for the Astros when Dallas Keuchel shut down the Yankees in the 2015 AL Wild Card Game at Yankee Stadium.
But the Yankees appear confident against Santana given his struggles in the Bronx and against hitters such as Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Chase Headley and Greg Bird.
"We have a good idea of how he's going to pitch us," said Gardner, who is a career .355 (11-for-31) hitter against Santana. "We've faced him a couple of times, and we're looking forward to the challenge."
The Twins, though, believe in Santana, who has been their anchor the past two seasons, posting a combined 3.32 ERA over 392 2/3 innings that ranks as the 12th-best mark in the Majors over that span among qualified starters.
Santana has pledged to treat the outing just like any start, and Twins second baseman James Dozier said he wouldn't want anybody else to take the mound tonight.
"He's magic -- he's calm, cool and collected," Dozier said. "We relied on him for a lot, but at the same time, it's kind of just keep doing what he's been doing the whole year -- magic."
Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter **@RhettBollinger** and **Facebook**.