Strong starting pitching has marked the first two games of the weekend series between the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins.
Chicago right-hander James Shields (1-0, 1.69 ERA) and Minnesota left-hander Hector Santiago (1-1, 2.38) will try to match their teammates on Sunday for the finale of the three-game series at Target Field.
Twins right-hander Ervin Santana threw a one-hitter for his ninth career shutout in Minnesota’s 6-0 win on Saturday to split the first two games of the series. Jose Quintana struggled in the first for the White Sox but managed to last 5 2/3 innings.
Chicago’s Dylan Covey and Adalberto Mejia each allowed one run in Friday’s 2-1 win by the White Sox.
“Everything’s working our way right now, so we just have to keep it up,” Santana said as the Twins improved to 7-4 on the season with Saturday’s victory.
Minnesota’s pitching has propelled the team to the strong start, along with some highlight defense.
Byron Buxton and Max Kepler have made several diving catches in the outfield this season. Shortstop Jorge Polanco made a spinning grab on a grounder up the middle to finish the sixth inning on Saturday and third baseman Miguel Sano made a running catch in foul ground in the seventh.
“Obviously it’s still early,” said Twins second baseman Brian Dozier, who was held out of Saturday’s game with swelling in his right knee but said he expects to play Sunday.
“We’ve still got a lot of work to do. But at the same time, I feel like we’re where we need to be pitching-wise, defensively. If we can push a few more runs across when we have the opportunities to stomp on their throats, that’s what we’ve got to do.”
Santana has been a big part of his team’s success, with three wins and one run allowed in 22 innings. But Santiago and others have also fared well for Minnesota.
Santiago will face his former team on Sunday coming off a setback in his last outing at Detroit. He took the loss despite allowing just two runs in 6 1/3 innings. Santiago opened the season with a win against Kansas City in which he gave up one run in five innings.
Attention to detail has paid off for the Twins, particularly on defense.
“That was the primary focus all of spring training of doing the little things,” Dozier said. “I know you all get wild about the diving plays and stuff. I’m talking about the little things that eliminate the big innings. I think we’ve done a better job so far.”
Shields has also been eliminating big innings for the White Sox (5-5). After posting a 6.77 ERA with Chicago following a midseason trade last year, Shields has given up two runs in 10 2/3 innings for the White Sox.
He beat Detroit in his first start and took a no-decision against Cleveland in his last outing, surrendering one run in each game and throwing 5 1/3 innings in each stint.
The White Sox could be without third baseman Todd Frazier, who left Saturday’s game early with recurrence of flu-like symptoms. Frazier had missed two games with the symptoms but returned Friday as the designated hitter. He was back at third base on Saturday but left after striking out in the fourth inning.
“He just wasn’t feeling good,” Chicago manager Rick Renteria said. “He wanted the at-bat, he took the at-bat and then we took him out of there. . . . (Sunday) is up in the air. We’ll see how he’s feeling.”