White Sox fall to Santana, Twins
Garland loses battle with ace, losing confidence
MINNEAPOLIS -- Statistically, there has been a fairly large chasm between Jon Garland's first eight regular-season starts of 2005 and the 31 regular-season starts to follow, bringing him into Minnesota's 10-1 victory Friday night before 30,473 at the Metrodome.
Garland won his first eight decisions last year, en route to a 13-4 first-half record, and his first All-Star appearance. Since those eight straight victories, Garland has a 12-12 record with a 4.52 ERA, giving up 103 earned runs over 205 innings pitched.
That total increased precipitously in the opener of a four-game set against the Twins, as Garland exited after allowing seven runs on 11 hits in 5 1/3 innings. It was the third time this season that Garland has yielded double-digit hits, after giving up 10 or more hits in only three starts all of last year.
The right-hander, who set a career high in almost every individual pitching category in 2005, including his 18 victories, now has a 2-2 record with a 6.75 ERA and has given up 60 hits in 44 innings. But of greater trouble for the White Sox was a usually confident Garland showing signs of concern during his postgame interview session with the media.
"Right now, I'm questioning my pitches too many times," said a subdued Garland. "That's something I'm not usually doing. I'm usually just getting it and going.
"I'm doing that instead of just trusting my stuff, throwing it and letting it go, saying, 'Here it is. If you hit it, you hit it.' I don't have that feeling right now, and if I'm starting to question pitches out on the mound, then there's something definitely wrong."
With Johan Santana (4-3) working for the Twins (16-19), Garland had very little room for error before he even took the mound. That margin quickly evaporated in the second inning, when Justin Morneau launched his ninth home run of the year, a ball that landed over the fence just to the right of center fielder Brian Anderson's somewhat awkward leap.
According to A.J. Pierzynski, the Morneau at-bat pointed out one of Garland's current problems. Garland was ahead in the count against the Minnesota slugger, but hung a pitch that led to two runs.
"His location has been back and forth, but he needs to get back to pounding the strike zone with his sinker and using all of his pitches and trying to finish guys off when he gets ahead," Pierzynski said of Garland. "It just seems like he gets ahead in the count and hasn't been able to finish guys. It's cyclical. It comes and goes."
"I just have to start getting ahead of guys, flat out," Garland added. "When you are getting behind someone 2-0, 3-0 or 2-1, he gets that comfortable feeling in the box. He's in control and can do what he feels."
Minnesota tacked on three in the fourth, with Luis Castillo delivering a two-out, two-run, bases-loaded single off of Garland. Three more came across in the sixth, with two being charged to Garland, and Joe Mauer's second home run going on Agustin Montero's line score during his Major League debut.
Meanwhile, Santana was nearly flawless for the first six innings. Paul Konerko broke up the shutout with his eighth home run leading off the seventh, but two hits apiece from Pablo Ozuna and Joe Crede were the only other marks against Santana's ledger.
The 2004 American League Cy Young winner struck out 10 and walked one, winning his fourth straight, with a 2.17 ERA and 40 strikeouts during that stretch. Santana also avenged a rare loss to the White Sox on April 21 at U.S. Cellular Field.
"He's Johan," said Pierzynski of his former batterymate. "We beat him last time, and I think he was mad. So, he came out and brought it tonight. There's not much you can do against him when he has all his pitches going."
"A lot of people talking about Santana having one of the best changeups in baseball," added White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen of his Venezuelan countryman. "But the difference is Santana locates his fastball better than a lot of people. Fastball in. Fastball away and then comes the changeup. He makes his pitches work off of his fastball."
Friday's one-sided effort marked the South Siders' second straight loss. Coupled with Detroit's win in Cleveland, the White Sox (23-11) have a 1 1/2-game lead in the American League Central.
Twenty-two runs have been scored against White Sox pitching during those two setbacks, and double-digit runs were posted back-to-back against Guillen's charges. That particular pitching woe did not befall the White Sox during their entire championship season.
With all due respect to Charlie Haeger, Boone Logan and Montero, it is the inexperienced pitchers who have been hit somewhat hard over these last two games. But Garland's issues draw concern.
Maybe not from Guillen, who said that Garland will be back out on the mound for his next start Wednesday against Tampa Bay. But the inner confidence has wavered for the usually rock-solid Garland.
"To me, he threw the ball better than what you see on the scoreboard," Guillen said. "His location was not quality location, and that's the reason he had a bad game."
"I don't care who you are, but if things go down hill, you will question yourself," Garland said. "[In 2005], I just wanted to be out there competing. Give me the ball, and I didn't care if you hit it, walked or struck out. It doesn't seem like right now I'm at the level I need to be competing."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.