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Preview: Tigers (66-78) at Twins (75-69)
Venue: Target Field
Date: September 16, 2015 8:10 PM EDT
Ervin Santana was brought in to serve as a veteran presence in Minnesota’s rotation, but a lengthy suspension made him more like a mid-season addition for the playoff race.
The right-hander now seems to be hitting his stride at just the right time for the Twins.
As Santana looks to win his fourth straight start, Minnesota hopes to bounce back by avoiding its first home series loss in seven weeks Wednesday night against the last-place Detroit Tigers.
Santana (5-4, 4.73 ERA) signed with the Twins on a four-year deal in December, but three days before the season opener MLB announced he would be suspended 80 games for a positive PED test.
Minnesota was in playoff contention once he returned in early July. Santana, however, struggled to find a rhythm and went 0-4 with a 9.20 ERA during a six-start stretch before turning things around.
The 33-year-old has allowed three runs while striking out 27 and walking four in winning his last three starts. He gave up two runs over seven innings in Friday’s 6-2 road win over the Chicago White Sox.
‘I just want to get one out at a time and one pitch at a time and it works,’ Santana said.
The Twins (75-69) had won seven of nine home games before a 5-4 loss on Tuesday evened this series. They haven’t dropped a set at Target Field since consecutive losses to Pittsburgh on July 28 and 29.
Santana hopes to help them cut into a 1 1/2-game wild-card deficit by avenging his last meeting with Detroit on July 10. He was 6-1 with a 2.08 ERA in his previous nine starts against the Tigers before yielding six runs and eight hits – three home runs – over four-plus innings in an 8-6 home win.
Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez homered off Santana in that contest. Victor Martinez, who went 3 for 4 with two RBIs on Tuesday, is 10 for 25 with two home runs lifetime in the matchup.
Santana has done well versus Miguel Cabrera, limiting him to five hits – one home run – in 21 at-bats. Cabrera has gone 0 for 15 in his last four games, but still leads the AL with a .336 average.
Detroit’s Daniel Norris (2-2, 4.43) is expected to be on a strict pitch count as he makes his first start in four weeks because of a strained oblique. He was originally scheduled to enter in relief of Anibal Sanchez, who was scratched due to shoulder discomfort.
Norris hasn’t pitched since experiencing pain during an Aug. 19 start when he allowed three runs over 4 1-3 innings in a 15-8 win at Wrigley Field. The left-hander has gone 1-1 with a 5.06 ERA in four starts since being acquired from Toronto in the David Price trade on July 31.
“There’s still some fight left in the dog,” he told MLB’s official website.
Norris will get his first look at a Minnesota lineup that has batted .342 and totaled 18 runs over its last three games and hit .337 while averaging 7.0 runs over its past five versus Detroit (66-78).
Joe Mauer has an opportunity to tie his career-best on-base streak at 35 games after hitting an RBI double in the ninth inning Tuesday.