Twins lefty keeps walks down, but labors in pivotal 4th inning
By Do-Hyoung Park
MINNEAPOLIS -- Left-hander Hector Santiago hasn't exactly had a dream transition to his new team.
Santiago dropped to 0-3 with the Twins after giving up a season-high seven earned runs to the Royals in an 11-4 loss on Sunday in the series finale. But Santiago, who was acquired in a deal with the Angels at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, has been working hard to fix his mechanics since his move to Minnesota in order to throw more strikes and keep his pitch count down, and he believes he is trending in the right direction despite the results.
"It's something I've worked on in the past, but the last two weeks or so, since I've come over, I've definitely put the foot down on it and tried to push myself to get to where I'm at," Santiago said. "You're definitely seeing results. Last couple of games, my pitch counts have been down. Quick innings."
Entering Sunday, Santiago's 4.1 walks per nine innings were the highest in the American League and indicative of his inconsistency around the strike zone. But after walking 13 batters in his previous three starts with the Angels, Santiago has only issued four free passes with the Twins in three starts.
It's clear that Santiago is attacking the zone more effectively; now, he's focused on not making mistakes over the plate in certain counts, particularly with two outs.
"Coming over from Anaheim, too, it seems like it's hard to get that third out," Santiago said. "For me, it's been my biggest downside of the year. I get two outs and give up some stuff and give up a few runs, and it lets the game get away from me."
All six of the runs Santiago yielded in the fourth inning came with two outs. Over the course of the season, he has given up 32 runs with two outs in an inning, compared to 38 with fewer than two outs.
In that fourth inning, Santiago gave up a leadoff double to Lorenzo Cain, but got two quick groundouts before his outing began to unravel. Salvador Perez lined a two-out RBI single into left that Robbie Grossman was unable to handle, one of four Minnesota errors in the game.
That put extra pressure on Santiago, who wanted to bail out his teammate with a good pitch, and Kansas City's aggressive hitters were able to take advantage of his mistakes. The big blow was a three-run homer by Paulo Orlando, who deposited a changeup into the upper deck.
But manager Paul Molitor and Santiago agreed that until that fourth inning, Santiago had been making some good pitches and attacking the zone more effectively.
"I started off good," Santiago said. "I made some good pitches, and they fouled them off. I made some bad pitches, and they didn't miss them. I'm making progress. I came out of the game with no walks, and that's two games with one walk so I'm pounding the zone with a low pitch count. I'm taking positives from it, but I've got to be a little better."
Do-Hyoung Park is a reporter for MLB.com based in Minneapolis. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.