What makes an ace an ace?
Surely winning big games in October has given players like Madison Bumgarner and Jon Lester the title but there are also a lot of things that a pitcher can do in the regular season to earn that title.
Ervin Santana hasn’t been able to pitch in October with the Minnesota Twins, he hasn’t even thrown for more than an entire month in a Minnesota uniform. However, through just four starts as a member of the Twins, Santana has done a lot of things that make appear to be an ace.
His last two outings have been brilliant. After first-year manager Paul Molitor trusted his recently reinstated pitcher to open the second half, Santana tossed 7.2 shutout innings in a 5-0 win over the Oakland Athletics. He only had a one run lead for most of the game until a Trevor Plouffe grand slam really put Minnesota ahead late in the game. Today, the veteran righty didn’t allow a run for the second straight start and went eight innings against a hot Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim club, striking out seven and allowing no walks.
Aside from outstanding performances in postseason baseball, the biggest thing a true ace should do is be able to take over a game and win when your team needs you the most. That is exactly what the 32-year old Dominican native did this afternoon against the Angles. Minnesota was firing on all cylinders heading into the All-Star break and even shut down Oakland in Santana’s first start after the break, but the Twins began to sputter and lost their next four games.
They needed a win badly today and Ervin Santana was right there waiting to lead his team to victory.
It wasn’t ideal for the Twins to see Santana suspended for the first 80-games of the season after signing him to a four year contract this offseason but he’s given the team an incredible boost since his return on July 5th, when he allowed just two runs over eight innings in a no decision against the Kansas City Royals.
He’s not actually an ace right now. Santana has a career 4.16 ERA and he’s only pitched four times this season, but in that short time frame he’s helped the Twins out immensely. After finishing May with the best record in the American League, they were the league’s worst team in June. His return to the 25-man roster in early July was massive.
Minnesota has gotten back on course and currently holds a three game lead over the Toronto Blue Jays for the second AL Wild Card spot. And on a day like today when it seemed the team was slipping once again, Santana was right there to steer them back.