MINNEAPOLIS -- It was the kind of outing by Ervin Santana that showcased why the Twins have been hesitant to trade the 12-year veteran, as he recorded his second complete game of the year. But the Braves pitched out of several jams and did just enough offensively, led by a solo homer from Adonis Garcia, in a 2-0 win over Minnesota on Tuesday night at Target Field.
Braves right-hander Lucas Harrell, who like Santana has also found himself subject to trade rumors, limited the Twins to four hits and three walks over six scoreless frames to get his second win. Relievers Mauricio Cabrera, Hunter Cervenka, Chris Withrow and closer Jim Johnson combined to throw three scoreless innings to preserve Atlanta's seventh shutout of the year.
"Harrell was in trouble a lot, but he made the pitches, just like he has been doing," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "He kept battling. ... It was just a solid outing from everybody."
Santana outlasted Harrell and only needed 97 pitches to throw his second complete game this month after throwing a shutout on July 6. But he gave up two runs on seven hits to take the hard-luck loss. Santana wasn't helped by his offense, as the Twins went 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left seven runners on base.
"Ervin was good," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "We were within striking distance. We just squandered opportunities early and didn't muster late. The bats weren't great for the most part. We came back after an off-day on Monday, and it just felt sluggish for whatever reason. Sometimes you can't explain that. We just couldn't get a big hit with a runner on base."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Sell high? Some of those teams that have inquired about acquiring Harrell before Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline may have gained more interest in the veteran right-hander, who has allowed one run or less in three of his five starts for Atlanta. His decision to throw a pitch up and in to right-handed hitter Miguel Sano with two on and one out in the third inning enabled A.J. Pierzynski to make a strong throw that denied Byron Buxton's attempt to steal third base. More >
"A.J. called a fastball inside, so I was like, let's throw something up to give him a chance," Harrell said. "Guessed right. So, sometimes, it's better to be lucky than good."
Twins get defensive: Santana was helped by a couple of solid defensive plays a in 1-2-3 fifth inning. Second baseman Brian Dozier moved to his right to make a nice stop and throw to rob Ender Inciarte of a hit. It was a nearly identical play to the one he made to take away a hit from Nick Markakis an inning earlier. Right fielder Max Kepler got in on the action with a diving catch in right to end the fifth.
"Dozier made some nice plays and off-balance throws toward the middle," Molitor said. "Kepler got a good jump on a Pierzynski ball where there was a big swing but didn't have a lot of carry."
A return to power: Garcia seems to have regained that same unexpected power he produced last year, when he tallied 10 homers in 191 at-bats. His second-inning solo shot was his eighth homer of this season and seventh in a span of 139 at-bats dating back to June 10.
"The last couple weeks I've felt better at home plate," Garcia said through an interpreter. "I'm being a little more selective. This is why I'm getting these results."
Santana shines: Santana has been on a roll recently, and he kept it going against his former team. The right-hander has a 2.02 ERA over his last seven starts, lowering his season ERA from 5.10 to 3.78, but he is just 2-2 over that span because of a lack of run support. Twins interim general manager Rob Antony publicly stated again before the game that he believes Santana is the team's best starting pitcher, and with two years remaining on his contract, plus a team option, he views the veteran right-hander as part of the franchise's future. More >
"I feel great," Santana said. "Everything has been working just like I want it. I just have to keep it up. I have to erase this game tonight and get them next time."
"When you look at our starting pitching and the consistency he shows, it's a valuable asset to have. It's not my area, and they're going to do what's right. But I think to have him around here for us would be a good thing if it works out that way." -- Molitor, on whether he wants to see Santana stay in Minnesota after Monday's Trade Deadline
"I was surprised they didn't boo me. But the people in the stands probably forget that I played here." -- Pierzynski, who played for the Twins from 1998-2003 and then the division-rival White Sox from 2005-12
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Santana became the first pitcher in the Majors this season to pitch at least nine innings and get saddled with a loss. The last pitcher previously to get a loss when throwing at least nine innings was Indians right-hander Josh Tomlin, who threw a complete game in a defeat to the Royals on September 15, 2015.
WHAT'S NEXT Braves:Mike Foltynewicz will take the mound when Atlanta and Minnesota conclude this two-game series on Wednesday at 8:10 p.m. ET. Foltynewicz has allowed runs in just two of the 21 innings he has completed over his past three starts. .
Twins: Right-hander Tyler Duffey (5-7, 5.71 ERA) is set to start for the Twins in the final game of the two-game set at Target Field on Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. CT. Duffey is coming off one of his worst starts of the season, allowing six runs on nine hits in just 2 1/3 innings against the Red Sox.