The Royals acquired Ervin Santana in a trade with the Angels last Halloween, which is fitting in a way, because his Kauffman Stadium debut was something of a trick-or-treat outing.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
The visiting Twins tagged Santana for a run on four hits – all singles – during a first inning that had to remind fans, even if only briefly, of last season’s home-opening debacle.
Fact is, that first inning could have been much worse were it not for Ryan Doumit’s baserunning gaffe.
Of course, the next seven innings were a real treat as Santana settled in and allowed only four more hits – none for extra bases – in picking up his first win with the club after an eighth-inning rally.
“It took him an inning to settle down, but once he got settled down and started making pitches, boy, was he good,” manager Ned Yost said.
Relying on a sharp-breaking slider with a fastball that regularly touched 92 in the late innings and a baffling change-up mixed in, Santana had the Twins’ lineup uncomfortable for most of the afternoon.
“I was confident throwing all my off-speed stuff for a strike and I was able to locate my fastball, too,” said Santana, whose final line was impressive – eight innings, eight hits, seven strikeouts, one run and only one walked on 104 pitches (75 strikes).
“I watched every pitch he threw and he carried the team today,” Billy Butler said. “After that first inning, he was absolutely lights-out; I mean phenomenal.”
Santana denied feeling any anxiety, but he admitted to being excited and perhaps overthrowing his fastball early, which led to a few fastballs up in the zone.
“He was a little too amped up,” Butler said. “He got ahead in the count and tried to gear up more, but some pitches caught the fat part of the plate. He calmed right down, though, and that’s a professional. He sat back, re-gathered himself and threw a heck of a game.”
After the first inning, the Twins had no chance. Only one runner made it past first during the next innings, keeping the game at 1-0 into the bottom of the eighth.
“Erv did a great job keeping us in the game, and that was the whole key,” said Alex Gordon, who drove in the game-tying run with a sharp single to right-center and then scored the game-winning run on Alcides Escobar’s double down the right-field line.
“I told Santana during the game to keep going and I’d get a run for him,” Escobar said. “I knew the team could hit and, after he gave us basically eight innings perfect, we had to get him those two runs he needed.”
Santana flashed a massive grin when asked for his reaction to seeing Escobar slash that double the other way.
“(I was smiling) big time. You’re always smiling when you’re in a game like that and it’s very intense, then we score a couple runs. You finally exhale and relax, because you know you’re going to win this thing now.”
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.