Santiago tops A's in return to White Sox rotation
Lefty, filling in for the injured Peavy, allows two runs over 6 1/3 innings
CHICAGO -- Hector Santiago has shuttled between starting and relieving this season because of injuries and other circumstances, and now the young left-hander gets another opportunity to show he belongs in the White Sox rotation on a full-time basis after the recent injury to Jake Peavy.
So far, so good, as the White Sox rode a strong start by Santiago to a 4-2 victory over the A's on Sunday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field.
"We've known he's valuable," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said of Santiago. "This past year, seeing his transformation from closer to middle guy, lefty guy to starter, we realize Hector is valuable, and that's another reason why he wasn't sent down when John [Danks] came back. He's a Major League pitcher and you have to figure out a way to use him.
"With Jake going down, he's the guy that slides right in and takes over for him, and you feel good about it."
There certainly was a lot to feel good about this performance as Santiago (2-4) allowed just four hits and two runs (one earned) in 6 1/3 innings in his first start since May 22. He began the season in the bullpen and switched to starting in early May when Gavin Floyd was injured. Santiago then went back to the bullpen three weeks later when Danks returned from the disabled list.
That role is a challenge for any pitcher, and is especially difficult for a 25-year-old like Santiago.
"From the way it looks, I guess it's not that hard, but I've adapted to it," he said of switching between starting and relieving. "I've been doing it my whole life, from high school to college, and I've kind of got used to the role."
The only real blemish on Santiago's line was a third-inning solo home run by Coco Crisp. The other run charged to Santiago, which was unearned, came after he left in the seventh, when Josh Reddick scored on an errant pickoff throw by reliever Matt Thornton.
After the Crisp homer, Santiago retired 12 of 14 batters -- including eight straight -- before walking the final batter he faced, Reddick, with one out in the seventh.
"He was kind of effectively wild," A's third baseman Josh Donaldson said of Santiago. "He was kind of everywhere, but throwing just enough strikes. He did a good job limiting any damage that could have been done."
The White Sox (27-34) provided just enough offensive support. After Crisp gave the A's the lead in the top of the third, catcher Tyler Flowers tied it with a solo homer in the bottom of the inning. The Sox added a pair of runs in the fourth on a sacrifice fly by third baseman Conor Gillaspie and a run-scoring double by Gordon Beckham to take a 3-1 lead.
After the A's inched closer on the unearned run, Alex Rios provided an insurance run with a solo homer to center in the eighth.
The victory gave the Sox consecutive wins for the first time since a sweep of the Marlins on May 24-26.
"Anything in a row is good," Santiago said. "You want to get to two and then three, four. Who knows what can happen from here the way the starting pitching is going. It's keeping the guys in the game and giving them a chance to win."
Timely hits like the Sox produced on Sunday have been difficult to come by this season, but the main topic of conversation in the clubhouse was the pitching of Santiago.
"Hector threw the ball great," first baseman Paul Konerko said. "To me, that's the story today. We've been pulling him in and out of the rotation, back and forth, and that's not easy. You see what he did today. That's big against a good team and that should give us a little bit of confidence."
For now, Santiago can focus on starting, because Peavy (broken rib) is expected to be out at least a month.
"We're all hoping for Peavy to come back as soon as possible," Santiago said, "but for now I have to enjoy the role."