By The Sports Xchange
ATLANTA — Ervin Santana got a victory against his former team and in the process helped the Minnesota Twins snap a seven-game interleague losing streak against the Atlanta Braves.
Santana allowed four hits over seven scoreless innings, Joe Mauer homered as part of a three-hit game and the Twins defeated the Braves 4-2 on Tuesday night.
The Braves swept a two-game series at Minnesota three weeks ago.
Santana (6-9) pitched a complete game against the Braves in Minnesota on July 26, but lost 2-0. This time the right-hander was even better, and the Twins gave him enough offensive support.
Santana struck out six and walked two in his 10th straight start allowing three earned runs or fewer.
“I’m sure he wishes it was something he could bottle,” manager Paul Mollitor said. “It’s the same for a hitter when you get on a roll. You enjoy the good trends and he’s certainly been on one for awhile.
“He’s put together a great run and it’s a pick me up for our team to have him pitch the way he did tonight.”
Trevor Plouffe joined Mauer with three hits and drove in two runs, including an insurance tally in the ninth inning. Brandon Kintzler pitched around a double by A.J. Pierzynski in the bottom of the frame for his 12th save.
Mauer fouled off two 3-2 pitches before slicing a 96-mph fastball from reliever Jose Ramirez just over the left-field fence in the eighth for his 10th homer of the season to make it 2-0. The Twins added another run in the inning on an RBI single by Kurt Suzuki.
“That was a long at-bat against a guy throwing very hard,” Mollitor said of Mauer’s homer. “He just stays in there and stays in there. Other than that one big year when he kind of jumped, he’s usually in that steady 10-to-15 range, but he hits them at good times and that was a big one for us.”
Braves scored twice in the bottom of the eighth as Tyler Rogers hit a batter and walked another, then Ryan Pressley allowed a run-producing double to Matt Kemp and an RBI grounder to Nick Markakis before Adonis Garcia lined out to left field to end the inning.
The Twins got three hits and drew two walks in the ninth inning, but Jorge Polanco was ruled out at the plate trying to score a second run on Plouffe’s hit.
The Braves got two runners on for the first time in the seventh inning on a single by Markakis and walk to Pierzynski, but Santana struck out pinch-hitter Jeff Francoeur on a full count with his 107th and final pitch.
“He was kind of on cruise control there for awhile,” Molitor said of Santana. “He had to pitch out of a couple of situations, but the biggest came at the end for him when he got Francoeur to swing through a fastball.”
Santana pitched for the Braves in 2014 and was 14-10 with a 3.95 ERA before signing with the Twins as a free agent before the 2015 season.
“He looked just like he did when we were there (in Minnesota),” Braves interim manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s efficient, he throws strikes, he changes speeds and he can bury his breaking ball when he wants to.”
“He did the exact same thing unfortunately,” Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “He just commanded both sides of the plate with his fastball, and he’s got that slider that you think you can hit and then it just disappears.”
Braves starter Joel De La Cruz (0-6) matched Santana after giving up a first-inning run and allowed four hits over 5 2/3 innings. De La Cruz walked two and struck out four.
The Twins (48-71) have the worst record in the American League and the Braves (44-75) the worst in the National League.
Plouffe’s RBI double in the first inning off De La Cruz after a two-out walk by Maurer gave Santana a quick lead with which to work.
Adonis Garcia doubled in the second inning off Santana and Ender Inciarte moved up on wild pitch after a single in the third that extended his on-base streak to 26 games. Both failed threats came with two outs, though.
NOTES: The Braves announced they will call up SS Dansby Swanson, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft, from Double-A Mississippi on Wednesday. The former Vanderbilt All-American, acquired from Arizona last winter, hit .275 with 39 extra-base hits this season in 107 minor league games, the last 84 with Mississippi. … The Braves traded SS Erick Aybar, who had been in the original lineup against the Twins, to the Detroit Tigers for INF/OF Mike Aviles and minor league C Kade Scivicque. Aybar hit .242 in 97 games with the Braves. … An MRI of 3B Miguel Sano’s sore right elbow revealed no structural damage, but he remained out of the Twins lineup with no DH. … RHP Mike Foltynewicz (6-5, 4.50 ERA will start for the Braves on Wednesday night against RHP Kyle Gibson (6-6, 4.86 ERA). Foltynewicz got credit for the Braves’ 9-7 victory in Minnesota on July 27. … The Twins were swept by the Braves in 2013 during a three-game series in their only other interleague visit to Turner Field. … 2B Omar Infante, signed to a minor league deal by the Braves on July 6, was released after batting .209 in 27 games with Triple-A Gwinnett.