SAN FRANCISCO -- Ervin Santana delivered a performance Friday night that was suitable for framing.The Minnesota Twins right-hander tickled the edges of the strike zone with the economy of pitches -- 91 -- that he needed to fashion his Major League-best third shutout of the season as he dominated the
SAN FRANCISCO -- Ervin Santana delivered a performance Friday night that was suitable for framing.
The Minnesota Twins right-hander tickled the edges of the strike zone with the economy of pitches -- 91 -- that he needed to fashion his Major League-best third shutout of the season as he dominated the San Francisco Giants, 4-0.
Though Santana (8-3) supplemented his effort with a bases-loaded double in the fourth inning, he truly demonstrated his mastery by surrendering four hits. Just one of them, Aaron Hill's third-inning triple, cleared the infield. That prompted Giants manager Bruce Bochy to say, "Really, we had one legit hit off him."
Oddly, Santana's previous start was his worst of the season, a four-inning, seven-run performance against the Angels last Saturday. This game was decidedly different.
"He was locked in and established his fastball," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "I don't think he hung a slider all night. He either painted it or threw it down and away. His changeup was working. Other than the leadoff triple, there weren't a lot of threats and he dodged that, too. And he got a big hit for us, which is surprising because these guys don't swing the bats very often. So he was dominant."
Santana threw first-pitch strikes to 26 of the 31 hitters he faced.
"He didn't miss a lot tonight," said Giants catcher Buster Posey, who managed a warning-track fly to left field in the fourth inning before striking out looking to end the game. "He commanded his slider really well and definitely had it going tonight."
Santana, who fouled out on a sacrifice-bunt attempt in his initial plate appearance in the third inning, helped himself by clearing the bases one inning later with his two-out fly ball to the right-center-field gap that Denard Span couldn't quite reach. Santana equaled his career RBI total (three) while connecting with the first pitch from Giants starter Matt Moore (2-7), who lasted six innings and allowed all four Twins runs.
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Two-out trouble: Moore's walk to Jason Castro set up Santana's big hit. Skirting the No. 8 hitter before the pitcher bats is common strategy. However, Castro was batting only .226, though he singled in his previous at-bat. Giants fans will remember Castro as the batter whose groundout to third base ended Player Page for Matt Cain's perfect game in 2012.
Nothing doing: The Giants trailed only 1-0 when Hill lashed his triple, which happened to be his 1,500th career hit. However, manufacturing runs is a task that has challenged the Giants all season. A grounder to the right side probably would have scored Hill, but rookie Austin Slater grounded out directly to first base and Moore tapped the ball immediately in front of home plate. Neither was the kind of productive out the Giants needed.
"I was able to throw a lot of strikes and keep the ball down for the most part," Santana said. "I was able to keep the hitters off balance."
"Fastball, swing. I was just trying to make good contact and see what happens. I wasn't trying to do too much." -- Santana, on his three-run double
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Santana became the first Twins pitcher with three RBIs since Luis Tiant in 1970. He was also the fourth American League pitcher with at least three RBIs since the designated hitter was introduced in 1973, joining Mike Mussina, Felix Hernandez and Christopher Young, and the first AL pitcher to hit a three-run double since the Washington Senators' Bill Gogolewski in 1971.
Twins: Right-hander Jose Berrios is set to start for the Twins in the second game of the series Saturday at 3:05 p.m. CT. Berrios limited the Angels to two runs over six innings in a win last time out.
Giants: San Francisco hopes that Jeff Samardzija will take his remarkable array of stuff to the mound with him in Saturday's rematch against the Twins at AT&T Park beginning at 1:05 p.m. PT. Samardzija issued zero walks in both of his double-digit strikeout performances this season.
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Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter **@RhettBollinger** and listen to his podcast.
Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.