Santana Shuts Down Tigers in Twins Win

Monday, September 11th 2006, 6:13 am
By: News On 6

Forget the wild card, Johan Santana and the Minnesota Twins are closing in on first place.

Unbeatable at home, Santana struck out 11 in his latest dazzling performance to pitch Minnesota past Detroit 12-1 Sunday. The 2004 AL Cy Young Award winner tossed two-hit ball into the seventh inning, pulling the Twins within two games of the AL Central-leading Tigers.

``Santana just dominates,'' said teammate Nick Punto, who had four hits and three RBIs. ``There's a psychological thing going on, too, with teams who come in here against him.''

The Twins haven't lost one of Santana's starts at the Metrodome since Aug. 6, 2005, going 22-0 in that span. The left-hander is 15-0 with a 1.92 ERA during that stretch and hasn't lost a game at all since the All-Star break.

He leads the major leagues in wins, ERA and strikeouts _ the pitching version of the Triple Crown. That could make Santana (18-5) a leading candidate not only for another Cy Young Award, but AL MVP as well.

``I'm more about trying to win a World Series,'' Santana said.

In other AL games, it was: Cleveland 5, Chicago 2; Oakland 9, Tampa Bay 7; Los Angeles 4, Toronto 3; New York 9, Baltimore 4; Boston 9, Kansas City 3; and Texas 4, Seattle 2.

After taking three of four from Detroit, the Twins own a 1 1/2-game lead over Chicago in the wild-card standings. They haven't been this close to the division lead since April 13.

Minnesota has shaved 8 1/2 games off the lead since another star pitcher, Francisco Liriano, went on the disabled list with arm problems. The rookie is set to return on Wednesday, and Punto says Santana is the reason the Twins are still in it.

``That's why Santana is my MVP,'' Punto said. ``It was a huge letdown losing (Liriano) in Detroit. We could have easily packed it in. Santana didn't allow that.''

Torii Hunter had three hits and scored three runs for the Twins, who trailed the Tigers by 10 1/2 games just more than a month ago. With the lead dwindling, Detroit has lost five of six.

``It's Sept. 11 and we're in first place,'' manager Jim Leyland said. ``There's no rah-rah speeches or anything. ... This is a grind, and you've got to grind it out for 162 games. It's quite simple that we've got to win some games.''

Detroit's Jeremy Bonderman (11-8) hasn't won in nine starts, a skid that began July 30 at the Metrodome.

``I'm throwing the pitches the same as all year, but I'm just getting in trouble a lot more lately,'' he said.

Indians 5, White Sox 2

At Chicago, Victor Martinez hit a tiebreaking homer in the ninth inning, C.C. Sabathia pitched a four-hitter and the Indians earned a four-game split.

Sabathia (11-9) ran his record to 3-0 against the White Sox this season. He walked two and struck out nine in his major league-leading sixth complete game of the year.

Third-place Chicago remained 3 1/2 games behind Detroit in the AL Central.

Athletics 9, Devil Rays 7

At St. Petersburg, Fla., Frank Thomas homered for the fifth consecutive game and drove in three runs to pace the AL West leaders.

Thomas has connected in five straight games three times in his career. This was the first time since May 1994. Eric Chavez hit a two-run shot for Oakland, and Huston Street earned his 31st save. Nick Swisher and Marco Scutaro also connected.

Angels 4, Blue Jays 3

At Anaheim, Calif., Jered Weaver (11-2) struck out Troy Glaus with the bases loaded in the fifth to help preserve the victory, and Los Angeles took advantage of a first-inning injury to Toronto ace Roy Halladay.

Weaver threw a career-high 113 pitches over 5 2-3 innings. The rookie struck out eight and allowed three runs and five hits, including Adam Lind's first career homer.

Francisco Rodriguez got his major league-leading 41st save, keeping the Angels 5 1/2 games behind Oakland in the AL West. The 24-year-old right-hander became the youngest pitcher in major league history with 100 career saves, breaking the previous mark held by Gregg Olson.

Halladay departed after Garret Anderson lined a single off his pitching elbow. X-rays showed no structural damage, just a bruise and some residual swelling.

Yankees 9, Orioles 4

At Baltimore, Derek Jeter extended his career-high hitting streak to 20 games, going 2-for-4 with a homer and four RBIs.

Jaret Wright (10-7) allowed three runs and three hits in 6 1-3 innings to earn his first win since Aug. 12.

Ramon Hernandez went 3-for-4 with two homers and four RBIs, but the Orioles fell a season-high 18 games under .500 (62-80) and were eliminated from playoff contention.

Jeter's 20-game hitting streak is the longest by a Yankee since Bernie Williams' 21-game run in August 1993. Sal Fasano and Nick Green also homered for New York.

Red Sox 9, Royals 3

At Boston, David Ortiz hit his career-best 48th homer and the Red Sox snapped a three-game skid.

Boston also ended a five-game losing streak to last-place Kansas City, but remained 7 1/2 games behind Minnesota in the wild-card race. Ortiz's two-run shot was his first homer since returning to the lineup Tuesday after missing eight games with heart palpitations.

Rangers 4, Mariners 2

At Seattle, Michael Young got three hits and drove in the go-ahead run in the ninth. Texas ended a three-game slide and snapped the Mariners' four-game winning streak. Akinori Otsuka earned his 32nd save in 35 chances.