Santana struggles again as losing slide hits 5

June 15th, 2016
Ervin Santana allowed five runs on 10 hits over five innings, throwing 72 pitches in Tuesday's 5-4 loss. (AP)

ANAHEIM -- Ervin Santana was hoping a brief return to his old Major League home would give him a respite from his struggles this season.

That was not the case, as the Twins' right-hander was hit hard again in a 5-4 loss to his former team, the Angels.

Santana, who spent the first eight seasons of his big league career and earned an All-Star appearance with the Angels, got knocked around for five runs on 10 hits, lasting five innings. He threw 72 pitches, and was yanked early by Twins manager Paul Molitor.

"They seemed to have a lot of good swings [off Ervin], and I don't know exactly what the issue is," Molitor said.

The Angels scored in four of five innings against Santana, breaking through in the first inning on Albert Pujols' RBI single ripped up the middle. Twins center fielder Byron Buxton managed to throw out Mike Trout at home to limit the damage to one run, but Santana couldn't avoid trouble.

"You have an open base to a Hall of Fame player [in Pujols] and you throw a slider down the middle," Molitor said. "It's just keeping that focus. You're not going to execute every pitch, but it's just something that you've got to be aware of."

Johnny Giavotella jumped on a 92 mph two-seam fastball on the inner half for a two-run homer in the second, followed by Kole Calhoun's solo shot off a slider in the third inning. Calhoun struck again in the fifth, grounding a double down the right-field line to score Gregorio Petit.

"They just hit the ball where it's supposed to be, in good places for them," Santana said. "I threw good pitches and they still turned them into base hits, so there's nothing I can do."

The Twins' offense rallied, but each time they cut into the lead, the Angels struck again.

"The troubling thing is the three times that we scored, they answered," Molitor said. "You'd like to go back out and put zeros on the board to try to get some momentum going. But we kept fighting."

Santana's issues have plagued him for much of this season, and with Tuesday's start, he's given up five or more runs four out of his last starts. The right-hander was expected to be one of the anchors of a Twins rotation that entered play with a staggering 5.53 ERA. Including their three innings Tuesday, the Twins bullpen has worked 222 1/3 innings this season.

While Molitor said there wasn't anything major impacting Santana, the results have been far from what the organization expected. After all, Santana ended the 2015 season on a high note. He went 5-1 over his last six starts, turning that momentum into becoming the club's '16 Opening Day starter.

Now, he finds himself at 1-7, losing each of his last five decisions and an owner of a 5.10 ERA.

"This year, coming in healthy, it just hasn't been consistent like we've seen him in the past," Molitor said.