Julio Santana has become the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' unlikely stopper.
The right-hander pitched a five-hitter for his first career complete game as the Devil Rays snapped a five-game losing streak with a 10-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Thursday.
"He's been as good as anybody the second half of this year," Devil Rays manager Larry Rothschild said. "I've seen him come a long way confidence-wise and pitching-wise. They obviously go hand-in-hand."
Santana, claimed off waivers from the Texas Rangers on April 27, has worked at least six innings in his past 11 starts and allowed three earned runs or less in nine straight.
"I wonder if the Rangers are having second thoughts," Twins designated hitter Paul Molitor said. "I think probably the most impressive thing about him was his stamina. ... the fact he continued to throw in the mid-90s until the end of the ballgame. Once he got the lead, he seemed to get stronger and smelled the finish line. That's what you look for in a starting pitcher."
Molitor, who went 1-for-11 in the series, moved past Willie Mays into ninth place on the all-time hits list with his 3,284th -- a first-inning ground-rule double down the right-field line.
| Santana tosses a five-hitter in his first career shutout. (AP) |
Santana (5-2) did not allow an earned run, as he struck out three and walked three in his 28th career start.
"I'm happy because I'm here in this place," Santana said. "It's nice to have the opportunity to throw a complete game at home. I've just stayed positive and aggressive."
Tampa Bay's Aaron Ledesma hit a sacrifice fly in the third inning and added a two-run single during a three-run sixth inning as seven different Devil Rays hitters drove in runs.
Twins starter Eric Milton (7-11) had his second consecutive subpar outing. The left-hander lasted just 2 1/3 innings, allowing six runs on seven hits. In his last start on Aug. 21 against Boston, Milton gave up three runs in 1 2/3 innings.
"He got knocked around," Twins manager Tom Kelly said. "I don't know what's wrong. The last couple starts have been very poor. We'll have a little talk with him and see where he's at."
Tampa Bay scored twice in each of the first three innings, keyed by five doubles, to take a 6-2 lead. Bubba Trammell, who had three hits, and Quinton McCracken had two doubles each.
Santana made a throwing error and Marty Cordova had an RBI double as the Twins scored two unearned runs in the first inning. Minnesota added another unearned run in the fifth on third baseman Bobby Smith's fielding error.
"We got off to a real good start, scored two runs and it looked like we were going to have a good day," Kelly said. "About 15 minutes later, it looked like we were going to have a bad day. The game went from our direction to the other direction."
John Flaherty hit his third homer of the season, a solo shot in the seventh. It was his first homer since May 17.
The Devil Rays have committed 12 errors in 12 games after making just nine in the previous 24 games.
The Devil Rays won for just the second time in 10 games and stopped a six-game home losing skid.
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