Two longtime starters will square off as the Kansas City Royals and Minnesota Twins play the middle game of a three-game series in Minneapolis Saturday afternoon.
The Twins will send 15-year veteran J.A. Happ (2-2, 5.44 ERA), a left-hander, to the mound. The Royals will rely on 16-year veteran Ervin Santana (0-0, 2.20). The right-hander may be in an opener role.
The Royals will look for a series win after taking the first game 8-3 on Friday. After scoring five runs in the three-game series just completed against the Tampa Bay Rays, the Royals matched that number in the seventh inning against the Twins.
Two hitters who had been struggling played big roles for Kansas City’s offense. Jorge Soler, who was hitless in his past 21 at-bats, had two singles. Hunter Dozier, who was activated from the 10-day injured list before the game, brought in a 0-for-31 skid, but he had a hit, a walk and two runs scored.
“It was only a matter of time,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said postgame. “Those guys are too good for that not to happen. It was great to see.”
Happ started the season hot, going 2-0 with a 1.91 ERA in his first five starts. But in his past three starts, he’s given up 19 earned runs in 13 innings (13.15 ERA). He’s given up 24 hits, including 13 extra-base hits. He was a little better in his most recent start, when he gave up four runs on eight hits in six innings against Cleveland last Sunday.
The biggest improvement was in his control. He walked only one and struck out 10.
“I think he threw the ball very well,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said about Happ after that start. “He looked sharp. I think some of the runs that came across were more happenstance.
“I thought he did a real, real nice job. He limited opportunities and damage on the other side. Jake mixes his pitches. He doesn’t go out there and depend on one particular pitch. If he has one pitch that’s working, he uses his other pitches to set that up.”
Happ is 5-3 with a 4.17 ERA in nine career starts against the Royals.
Santana will be making his second start of the season. He pitched three innings in his first appearance, allowing one run in three innings. Santana’s next seven appearances came out of the bullpen. He’s pitched 10 straight scoreless innings.
“He’s done a great job for us in about anything we’ve needed this season,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “I know he’s ready; he wants the ball.”
When asked if Santana would be on a pitch count, Matheny said, “Yep. We’ll see how it looks tomorrow. This guy is so smart with how he uses his stuff. We want him to go out and be aggressive, not necessarily giving him a pitch count. We have some guys who can throw some innings behind him.”
Santana, a one-time member of the Twins, is 6-3 with a 3.80 lifetime ERA in 14 career games (13 starts) against Minnesota.
–Field Level Media