Minnesota Twins right-hander Ervin Santana threw a complete game in the first interleague start against his former team. The veteran pitcher and the Twins are hoping for better fortune against the Atlanta Braves this time, though.
Santana, who lost a 2-0 decision to Atlanta in Minnesota on July 26, will take the mound again Tuesday night in the opener of a two-game set at Turner Field.
The Braves won both games at Target Field, following the victory over Santana by winning 9-7 the next night.
Santana was 14-10 with a 3.95 ERA for Atlanta in 2014 before signing with the Twins as a free agent. The 33-year-old is 5-9 this year, but has a 3.62 ERA and hasn’t allowed more than three runs in any of his past nine starts.
Braves third baseman Adonis Garcia homered in the second inning against Santana in Minnesota and that run was enough to beat him as the Twins managed just five hits off five Atlanta pitchers.
Despite the two victories in Minnesota, the Braves still trail the Twins in the race to escape the worst record in the majors. Atlanta is 44-74 at the bottom of the National League, while Minnesota is an American League-worst 47-71.
Both teams have played better the last few weeks, although each is coming off a lopsided loss. The Twins fell 11-4 to Kansas City on Sunday to complete a 2-5 homestand, while the Braves lost 9-1 at Washington to finish a 5-5 road trip that started 4-1.
“One of the more difficult games to watch us play on the defensive side,” said Twins manager Paul Molitor, whose team committed four errors. “Aesthetically, not very pretty at all. We had a chance to make a lot of plays and we didn’t make very many of them.”
Braves rookie Tyrell Jenkins continued to struggle with his control against the Nationals, walking three while allowing seven runs in 4 2/3 innings.
“You can’t put extra guys on base or it’ll bite you, and it did,” Braves interim manager Brian Snitker said. “It would have been nice to win this, take the series and have a winning road trip.”
Joel De La Cruz, who is 0-5 with a 4.09 ERA, will try to make the Twins earn their way on as he makes his sixth start for the Braves in the opener against the Twins. He was hit on the right knee by a line drive in his most recent start, but hasn’t had further issues.
The right-hander will have to be careful with Twins second baseman Brian Dozier, who hit three homers against the Royals over the weekend and has 17 since June 26 to lead the majors.
Twins third baseman Miguel Sano, limited to designated hitter last week because of a sore right elbow, had an MRI exam on Monday. He underwent Tommy John surgery on the elbow in 2014.
The Twins have gone 22-17 since July 2, leading the majors in runs scored, hits, doubles, triples, batting average and on-base percentage during the stretch.
Minnesota hit a speed bump, though, against Houston and Kansas City.
“Not a good game, not a good homestand,” Molitor said. “We come home 5-2 and things kind of turned in the middle of the week. … We have a lot of people that have a lot to play for here. There’s a lot of things up in the air. I hope they understand that.”
The Braves are 26-28 since June 15 and 11-8 since July 26 as first baseman Freddie Freeman and center fielder Ender Inciarte have gone on hot streaks at the plate.
Freeman is 13-for-28 with five home runs in the past nine games, while Inciarte has hit .354 and reached base safely in 25 consecutive games.