DETROIT -– If the Chicago White Sox, mired in an eight-game losing streak, are looking for any kind of bright spot in this dismal season, they can turn to the quality start turned in by pitcher Hector Santiago on Friday night at Comerica Park.
Santiago gave up two runs or less for the fifth time in his past six starts, but was still saddled with a 2-1 loss at the hand of the Detroit Tigers.
“Looking at Hector’s night this was probably one of his better jobs,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said after the game. “He’s had the fourth, fifth innings where he’s had a little bit of hiccup, where he gets a little wild, walks a few guys, and I think tonight he was as smart as he’s ever been. He was locating. He had a little zip on it even late. It was good stuff from him.”
Santiago allowed just two runs on six hits and struck out seven in seven innings of work.
“For any young guy, this year for him he’s got to build on that,” Ventura said. “You put him basically in his first year of starting up here and any hiccup is going to cost you. I thought tonight was a step in the right direction for him. He got through without getting wild where he has no idea why he just walked two or three guys and then they get one hit and the next thing you know you’re down a few runs.”
Santiago, who began the 2012 season as the White Sox’s closer, has allowed two or fewer runs in 11 of his past 15 starts, lowering his earned run average to 3.28.
He credits his improvement as the season has gone to better control of his pitches.
“I’m now getting to where I can feel both of my sliders,” Santiago said. “I can feel the hard one and I can feel the little slow one and put it in there for a strike. I couldn’t feel that earlier in the year. I couldn’t tell if it was going to come out 80 [miles per hour] or 70. Now I’m getting to the point where I can feel it and I know where I want to throw it. I’m getting to the point where I know where I’ve got to release it and how it’s coming out of my hand. It’s about paying attention to every release point of every pitch.”
Santiago entered the game allowing 25 walks over his past nine starts, which tied him for the fifth-most free passes in the American League since June 9.
He gave up just one walk on Friday.
“After [the first inning] I was kind of locked in from there on out,” said Santiago, who gave up his lone walk in the opening frame. “I didn’t think of whether or not to pitch around them. I just went with my best pitch.
“I was locked in during bullpen for sure and I just took it into the game,” Santiago continued. “It just kind of fell about for one or two hitters out there, but then I got locked back in and it went from there. So far, one of my better controlled days by far.”
Santiago’s confidence also got a little extra boost when he found out that Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera was a late scratch from the lineup.
“You get a little more enthusiastic when he’s out of the lineup, for sure,” Santiago admitted. “You go in with the same game plan, but with him being out that was definitely a relief, for sure.”
But it again came down to the lack of run support the White Sox's hitters provided the starting pitching. Entering play Friday, Chicago’s starting pitchers had a 2.76 ERA over the past seven games, all of which ended in losses.
“It’s tough, but maybe if the starters did a little bit more maybe it would be a 1-0 game instead of a 2-1 game,” Santiago said. “You’re not going to put that on yourself, obviously. It was a good game, a quality start and you gave up two runs against a starting lineup like that. I mean Cabrera’s not in the starting lineup, but still it’s an overall very good lineup.”