Ervin Santana has been a model of efficiency lately for the Minnesota Twins.
”Early on it was all about getting a run on the board and then watch Ervin go to work,” manager Paul Molitor said. ”He was just kind of on cruise control there for a while.”
Santana scattered four hits over seven scoreless innings, Joe Mauer homered and the Twins beat the Atlanta Braves 4-2 on Tuesday night.
In a matchup of the two worst teams in the major leagues, Minnesota improved to 48-71, four games better than the Braves.
Santana (6-9) walked two and struck out six, throwing 64 of his 107 pitches for strikes to win his third straight start. He’s accustomed to pitching at Turner Field after spending the 2014 season with the Braves, but the muggy conditions were still tough to overcome.
”I feel great,” Santana said. ”There was a lot of humidity, but we got the win. That’s the most important thing.”
The Twins took a 1-0 lead in the first on Trevor Plouffe’s RBI double. In the eighth, Mauer hit his 10th homer and Kurt Suzuki had an RBI single to make it 3-0.
Brandon Kintzler earned his 12th save in 13 chances after facing four batters in the ninth.
Santana allowed three runners to get into scoring position before striking out Jace Peterson in the second, Chase d’Arnaud in the third and pinch-hitter Jeff Francoeur in the seventh.
Pitching against the majors’ weakest offense, Santana improved to 3-2 with a 1.99 ERA in seven starts since the All-Star break. Atlanta ranks last in runs and homers.
”He just commands both sides of the plate with his fastball,” Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said. ”He’s got that slider you think you’re going to hit, and it just disappears. He had it working today.”
The Braves cut the lead to 3-2 in the eighth. Ryan Pressly gave up Matt Kemp’s RBI double and Nick Markakis’ RBI groundout, but he stranded a runner at third when Adonis Garcia lined out.
Minnesota made it 4-2 in the ninth when Mauricio Cabrera, the sixth of seven Atlanta pitchers, gave up Plouffe’s RBI single.
Mauer went 3 for 4 and is hitting .418 with 14 RBIs in his last 19 games. Suzuki is hitting .322 with 26 RBIs in his last 42 games. Manager Paul Molitor liked seeing Mauer’s long ball.
Atlanta starter Joel De La Cruz (0-6) gave up four hits, one run, two walks and struck four in 5 1-3 innings.
The Twins are 15-8 in their last 23 road games. The Braves dropped to 18-40 at home.