CHICAGO — The Minnesota Twins are playing well enough to make Ervin Santana untouchable.
There was recent interest in the Twins right-hander, notably from the Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros for help in their playoff drives.
However, a recent strong run by the Twins and by the 34-year-old veteran has Minnesota thinking that Santana should stay put for the stretch run in pursuit of an American League wild-card spot.
“The longer we’ve been able to hang around (in contention), the more difficult it’s been for our front office people to consider any type of transaction,” Minnesota manager Paul Molitor said prior to the Twins’ 4-1 win over the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday night. “I think that would shock a lot of people.”
Minnesota (65-60) holds the second wild-card position by a half-game over the Los Angeles Angels. Six other teams are within six games of the Twins.
Santana (13-7, 3.33 ERA) makes the start Wednesday in the fourth game of a five-game series against the White Sox.
Chicago counters with right-hander James Shields (2-4, 5.72 ERA).
Santana has two wins in his past four starts since Aug. 2, all Twins victories. He has averaged just over two earned runs in those games, three of which were quality starts.
He allowed three runs on seven hits and struck out six over six innings in his last start on Friday against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“With the experience he has, I believe that he’s strong enough to finish the season out well with his innings getting up there (162 1/3 pitched),” Molitor said. “I think he’s really enjoying being the leader of a staff that has a chance to play meaningful games here into late August.”
Santana is 11-8 with a 3.68 ERA in 25 career appearances (24 starts) against the White Sox. He last faced Chicago on June 20 at Target Field, allowing six runs over five innings. He is 5-4 with a 3.23 ERA in 11 career appearances (10 starts) at Guaranteed Rate Field.
The rebuilding White Sox (48-76) have been trying out a number of young pitchers in recent weeks, but on Wednesday, they will turn to Shields, the staff veteran.
Shields is 0-1 with a 4.15 ERA over his past three starts despite allowing three earned runs or fewer in each outing. He missed two months of the season with a strained right lat, returning in mid-June.
Shields got a no-decision Friday at Texas, allowing two runs on five hits, including one home run, with three walks and six strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings.
“I kind of changed a few things in my delivery, and I’m happier with more ground balls the last couple of games,” Shields said. “I’m just getting a little more movement on my ball, inducing a little bit more ground balls and more swing-and-misses. We’re going to keep rolling with it and see how it goes.”
Shields is 8-8 with a 4.20 ERA and 99 strikeouts in 22 career starts against Minnesota. He is 2-3 with an ugly 6.14 ERA in seven home starts this year.
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