As if Hector Santiago didn’t already know he was struggling Wednesday he received an audible notification in the first inning.
Santiago, who fell behind 1-0 after he allowed the first three batters to reach base, heard the sound of Tyler Flowers’ glove pop after he threw a pitch. Before he could throw another, Santiago heard a second glove pop and looked up to find White Sox reliever Ramon Troncoso warming up in the bullpen.
From that point on Wednesday, Santiago was sharp. Instead of a second straight early exit, the left-hander made an adjustment that saved his evening.
Santiago, who lasted seven innings, said the sight of Troncoso gave him the extra push he needed.
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“I kind of walked off the mound and heard another pop and was like, ‘Who’s that? Man, (the bullpen’s) going early, huh?’ ” Santiago said. “Right there you settle down and get after it...It kind of gets you motivated on the mound. You hear that and don’t want to come out the game so it gets you going and gets you locked back in.”
Santiago appeared as if he wanted to match his previous effort on Friday, when he gave back an early five-run lead and was knocked out after 2 1/3 innings.
He walked Nick Markakis to start the game before Manny Machado and Adam Jones singled, the latter driving in a run.
Santiago didn’t look at all comfortable and stepped off the mound several times during a 28-pitch inning in which he was visited three times. But Santiago got out of trouble with a strike out of Chris Davis and Matt Wieters before he got J.J. Hardy to fly out to deep left.
After the first three batters of the game, Santiago retired 20 of the final 24 batters he faced. White Sox manager Robin Ventura was impressed by the fortitude shown by his young starter on a night in which the team needed him. Earlier in the day, the White Sox placed Jesse Crain on the 15-day disabled list and were short a man in the bullpen as veteran David Purcey hadn’t yet arrived from Triple-A Charlotte.
“It didn’t look like we were going to get much out of him,” Ventura said. “The first inning was a little erratic...He gutted it out. To get through seven was a big thing for him. He threw a lot of pitches, but just kind of toughed it out. He kept us in there.”
Though he did allow a solo home run to Davis in the fourth, an opposite-field shot that just stay inside the foul pole, Santiago gave the White Sox every chance to win.
He tied a season-best with nine strikeouts and made a career-high 123 pitches.
Santiago -- who allowed two earned runs and six hits with two walks -- said the key, besides the sight of Troncoso, was challenging opposing hitters.
“After I walked the leadoff man in the second inning I was like ‘See how far you can it. Hit it out of the park,’ ” Santiago said. “Fell into a groove right there and just lowered it out.”