Inside Pitch: Santana A Bright Spot

Santana has looked good in his last three starts.

In this edition of Twins' Inside Pitch, Johan Santana turns in another great performance, Rondell White picks up only his second extra-base hit of the season, Manager Gardenhire is putting no pressure on Joe Mauer, and much more.

One of the strange bits of Twins-speak this season has been the loose use of the term "table setters" to refer to the top of the batting order all the way through the No. 3 spot.

When did the No. 3 hitter in the lineup become a table setter and not a run producer?

Maybe when you're the Twins, with one of the worst run-producing lineups in the majors, and you're No. 3 hitter is young catcher Joe Mauer -- from whom you're just happy to be getting singles and the occasional double on a consistent basis.

"Joe's doing what he's supposed to be doing for this lineup," said manager Ron Gardenhire, who's not putting pressure on his 23-year-old catcher to drive in runs. "He can't drive them in if they're not getting on ahead of him. You can't start putting more things on one guy's shoulders just because other guys aren't getting it done."

Actually, the first two hitters in the lineup, Shannon Stewart and Luis Castillo, have by far the highest on-base percentages on the team. And Mauer is fifth on the team in at-bats with runners in scoring position -- but has produced just two hits in 16 such at-bats (.125). He was 0-for-2 in those situations Tuesday.

REPLAY: Left-hander Johan Santana (2-3) is quickly becoming the bright spot in a dim start to the Twins season. On Tuesday against Seattle, he turned in his second straight sparkling outing to earn his second straight victory, this time 5-1 over the Mariners at the Metrodome as the Twins snapped a four-game losing streak.

Santana struck out nine and walked none in seven innings, allowing his only run when he gave up hits to the first three batters he faced -- before retiring nine straight, including the first four of those on strikeouts. In his past three starts, he's 2-1 with a 2.45 ERA in 22 innings with 25 strikeouts and four walks. His season ERA dropped under 4.00 for the first time this season on Tuesday (3.89).

NOTES, QUOTES:

  • LHP Johan Santana improved to 5-1 with a 3.00 ERA against Seattle in his career when he pitched seven strong innings for a victory Tuesday night.

  • DH Rondell White, who continues to battle a season-opening .138 slump, snapped an 0-for-14 string with a double in the second inning Tuesday before grounding out and striking out in ugly fashion on a changeup in his next two at-bats. It was just his second extra-base hit this season.

  • The Twins have trailed in 25 of their 26 games this season.

  • RF Lew Ford's infield single in the second inning Tuesday was the Twins' 31st infield single of the season, second to Baltimore in the American League.

  • The Twins' four runs in the second inning Tuesday were more runs than they scored in their previous four games combined (in 9-0, 18-1, 6-0 and 8-2 losses).
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