Dennis Santana has set a high bar for his second Triple-A start -- assuming he's not promoted again.The Dodgers' No. 10 prospect tied his career high with 11 strikeouts and allowed three hits over six scoreless innings as Oklahoma City held off Nashville, 4-2, on Saturday at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
Dennis Santana has set a high bar for his second Triple-A start -- assuming he's not promoted again.
The Dodgers' No. 10 prospect tied his career high with 11 strikeouts and allowed three hits over six scoreless innings as Oklahoma City held off Nashville, 4-2, on Saturday at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
Gameday box score
The right-hander was 0-2 with a 2.56 ERA in eight starts at Double-A Tulsa, striking out 51 and walking 14 over 38 2/3 innings. He allowed 26 hits and opponents were batting .186 against him, prompting his promotion.
Santana said he felt no jitters but had a plan before the game.
"I just wanted to throw first-pitch strikes, then you try to go away, and the sinker in and fastball high," he said.
Santana (1-0) twice before had fanned 11, the first time on Aug. 21, 2015 in the Rookie-level Arizona League and on May 8 in his penultimate start before moving up the ladder.
The 22-year-old, who signed for $170,000 in 2013, was economical, despite all the strikeouts. He needed 86 pitches to navigate six innings, throwing 60 strikes. He began the game in strong fashion, whiffing Nick Martini and A's No. 3 prospectFranklin Barreto around a flyout in the first.
Santana struck out two batters in the second, third, fourth and sixth innings, punctuating the end of his outing by fanning Barreto again.
Oklahoma City got a quick start to back the native of the Dominican Republic. Tim Locastro, who has nine hits in his last four games, singled to lead off the bottom of the first and stole second. Two outs later, Travis Taijeron grounded an RBI single to center field.
The Dodgers added to the lead in the fourth on Jake Peter's two-run single.
The Sounds sliced the deficit immediately after Santana exited. Reliever C.C. Lee hit Anthony García with a pitch and Major League veteran Jake Smolinski, who had four hits Friday night, cleared the wall in left with his first homer.
Donovan Solano capped the scoring in the eighth by doubling home Breyvic Valera, who opened the inning with a triple.
The bullpen made the lead hold up for Santana, who signed as a shortstop with the Dodgers but moved to the mound after hitting .198 in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League in his first season.
Although he misses hitting, Santana likes the game more from the mound.
"When you're on the mound, you have control of the game," he said. "It's hard to hit, but on the mound, I enjoy it."
Santana was inconsistent following the transition but has bloomed the past two seasons and was an All-Star in the Midwest League in 2016 and the California League last season. His fastball sits between 93-95 mph and tops out at 98 and scouts say the heater features so much sink that it creates a lot of strikeouts and groundouts. He's had issues commanding his pitches and was walking 4.3 batters per nine innings entering the season.
However, he walked none against Nashville and is averaging 3.2 per nine innings this year.
"When you throw first-pitch strikes, it is easier. When you get behind in the count, then they can hit you," he said.
Despite the great start, Santana said he's not thinking too far ahead.
"I just take it day-by-day. Tomorrow, I'll be here practicing hard and next time, here in Triple-A or the Major Leagues, I'll just practice hard every day," he added.
Vince Lara-Cinisomo is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @vincelara.