SAN DIEGO -- Helping supply his team a four-run second inning, Ervin Santana went nine strong on the mound as the Twins defeated the Padres, 5-2, on Wednesday to split their two-game series in San Diego.
With the exception of Jose Pirela's two-run home run in the fourth, Santana cruised as he improved to 3-0 lifetime against San Diego, striking out nine Padres in his Major League-best fifth complete game of 2017. He provided himself an early lead with a two-out, bases-loaded single in the second. Eduardo Escobar did the same later in the inning, concluding a run of five straight Twins to reach with two outs against San Diego right-hander Luis Perdomo.
"This road trip was not good for us, so for me to come out and pitch like that today means a lot," Santana said. "It helps our bullpen. Now we can go back home and do the little things and not try to do too much. Just play baseball."
Perdomo managed to last six innings despite a rough beginning. Miguel Sano's 25th home run, a Statcast-projected 428-foot blast off Perdomo in the sixth, gave Minnesota some extra breathing room. As has become a regularity, one big inning doomed Perdomo.
"It's kind of the same story with him, and it's time to turn the page, really," Padres manager Andy Green said. "The same story in that the stuff's really good. A number of innings that are incredibly clean, efficient, easy. Dominating, almost. And then the one inning that kind of gets away from him."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Runs Batted Erv-In: With runners on second and third and two outs in the second inning, the Padres elected to intentionally walk Twins eight-hole hitter Jason Castro, loading the bases for Santana. He made them pay with a well-placed grounder that dribbled up the right-field line, scoring a pair. Santana's five RBIs this season not only lead American League pitchers, but also tie an MLB record for most Interleague RBIs by a pitcher. Only 11 National League arms had driven in at least five entering play Wednesday.
"We've been struggling with men in scoring position so I told [Santana] as he walked up, 'Just like San Francisco,'" Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "He had a run-scoring [single] there, too. He's obviously not intimidated to hit. He's not that polished but he's not afraid to swing and he put it in the right spot."
Bit of the stretch: It took until the fourth for the Padres to get Santana out of his windup. Not until Cory Spangenberg's one-out single did the Padres have a baserunner against Santana, who retired the first 10 men he faced. The right-hander threw only two pitches out of the stretch in the frame, the latter of which Pirela crushed to center field for his fifth home run. Despite striking out in his first at-bat against Santana, Pirela is batting .286/.333/.857 since replacing William Myers as the Padres' No. 3 hitter Saturday.
• Hand named NL Reliever of the Month
"He's worked incredibly hard," Green said. "He does not take at-bats off. He might strike out, but he's coming right back at you the next at-bat." More >
"I've seen teams be 10 games out and then win it. So why not us? We just have to keep our minds positive and anything can happen." -- Santana, on the Twins staying upbeat despite being sellers at the Trade Deadline
"The slider's real. It's one of those pitches that when it's down in the strike zone it's really tough to see, it's really tough to pick up, and if he locates it well, it's really tough to hit." -- Green, on Santana
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Santana's five RBIs this season are the most by a Twins pitcher since Bert Blyleven had six in 1972, which was the year before the designated hitter was introduced in the American League. The five RBIs are also tied for the most by a pitcher in Interleague Play, tying Dan Haren (2010) and Woody Williams (2003).
MYERS' STRUGGLES CONTINUE IN 5 SPOT
Afforded a three-game mental break heading into the series, Padres first baseman Myers did not see immediate improvement against Minnesota.
Myers, who sat Saturday and Sunday before Monday's off-day, went 0-for-7 with four strikeouts in the two-game series. Green dropped Myers to the fifth spot in San Diego's lineup, saying he hoped Myers would play his way back to the three-hole. But the early results weren't fruitful.
"At the end of the day, it's a man in the box with a bat in his hand with a resolve to beat the guy on the mound," Green said. "He possesses that, and now he has to show that every single at-bat. There's nothing, at any point in time, you can do for him when he's fighting in the box for an at-bat. I've got all the confidence in the world in him."
In his past seven games, Myers is 2-for-24 with eight strikeouts. An All-Star in 2016, Myers is hitting .204 since May 5.
Twins: After a 10-day California road trip, the Twins head home to host the Rangers in a four-game series that begins on Thursday at 7:10 p.m. CT. Rookie left-hander Adalberto Mejia (4-4, 4.07 ERA) starts for the Twins, and has posted a 2.68 ERA over his last eight outings.
Padres:Travis Wood's past two wins as a starter have come against the Pirates, and he'll try to make it three straight at 4:05 p.m. PT Friday when the Padres begin a three-game set in Pittsburgh. Wood held the Pirates to two runs and two hits across six innings in his Padres debut after a trade from the Royals.
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