BOSTON — Hector Santiago will try to keep the ball in the park when he comes off the disabled list to pitch for the Minnesota Twins in the second game of a four-game series against the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night.
The left-hander, out since June 7 with a left shoulder strain, has allowed 14 home runs in 65 innings this season, four of the long balls coming in his past two outings. Santiago (4-6, 5.26 ERA) totaled just 8 2/3 innings in those two starts.
He lost each of his past four games and is 0-5 in his past six appearances.
Asked after the Twins’ 4-1 loss to Boston on Monday what he expects from Santiago, Twins manager Paul Molitor said: “Hopefully something good. I’m sure he’s hungry. You know, you get what you do taken away from you for a little while and have to go down and rehab and get yourself prepared.
“I think he’s feeling strong. We know he’s got experience. It’s obviously a good lineup to try to navigate through, but just go out there and compete and do what you do and hopefully we get a chance when we get to the later stage of the ballgame.”
Santiago will face fellow lefty Drew Pomeranz, who hasn’t won in his last three starts (one loss) but has pitched to a 3.00 ERA over his last seven. Pomeranz (6-4, 4.07 ERA) struck out 43 and walked 11 in 39 innings in the seven-game span.
Pomeranz went 6 1/3 innings and allowed two runs in a no-decision at Kansas City on Wednesday. That outing followed a 6 1/3-inning, one-run no-decision at Houston on June 16 after he was tagged for six runs in 4 1/3 innings against Detroit on June 11.
In short, he has been far more efficient than the guy who threw 123 pitches in five innings in a road win over the New York Yankees on June 6.
“He’s attacked the strike zone with much more regularity,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said Monday. “It’s allowed his pitch efficiency to be improved. I think there’s been a few more cutters inside of a ballgame, the use of the changeup has started to come into the mix a little bit more.
“The attack plan against him has been fastball, curveball, but the fact that he’s got two other pitches he makes hitters conscious of or aware of, I think that’s slowed them down a little bit and maybe reduced some of the foul balls and the high pitch counts that have been part of his starts.”
Santiago is 3-3 lifetime against the Red Sox, winning his last three times out against Boston. He is 1-2 with a 4.19 ERA in four starts at Fenway Park.
Xander Bogaerts has hit him to the tune of 6-for-11 (.545), while Mitch Moreland is 5-for-15 (.333). On the flip side, Jackie Bradley Jr. is 0-for-7 against him.
Pomeranz is 1-1 with a 6.75 ERA in two appearances (one start) against the Twins, both coming when he was pitching for the Oakland A’s in 2015. Current Twins batter are a collective of nine hits in 31 at-bats against him, with Jason Castro 0-for-6 with four strikeouts.
With the Monday win, the Red Sox (42-34) remain a percentage point behind the New York Yankees in the American League East.
Minnesota (39-35) lost for the second time in seven games and fell back into second place, a half-game behind the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central.