Santana strikes out 17 as Twins top RangersAug 19, 2007 - 9:55 PM By Anthony Maggio PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
MINNEAPOLIS (Ticker) - The Minnesota Twins were waiting for an outstanding performance from Johan Santana in the second half this season. On Sunday, he was even better than expected.
The two-time Cy Young Award winner pitched eight scoreless innings and set a team record with a career-high 17 strikeouts to lead the Twins to a 1-0 victory over the Texas Rangers.
Michael Cuddyer hit a solo home run in the second inning - the only run Santana would need - for the Twins, who took the rubber match of the three-game set and have won four of their last five games.
"I thought from the first hitter on, the ball was coming out of his hand just effortless," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "You could see it, it was like no-hitter stuff."
Santana (13-9), who has a penchant for second-half success, was dominant from the start, striking out five of the first six batters he faced. He struck out all but two Rangers his first time through the order and had a no-hitter with nine strikeouts through the first four innings.
Sammy Sosa ended the no-hit bid with a soft liner to left to lead off the fifth inning, but Santana struck out the next two batters on his way to retiring another eight consecutive hitters.
Sosa nearly ended Santana's shutout chances in the seventh inning, lofting a 1-2 pitch high into the left field seats that hooked just foul. Sosa doubled the next pitch down the line, but Santana struck out Marlon Byrd swinging for a third time to end the threat.
"The way he threw today he might have gotten 17 strikeouts against whoever," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "It might have been the 1927 Yankees."
Santana struck out the side twice, including in the eighth inning with his pitch-count over 100 and the 36,353 fans screaming wildly. Joe Nathan then tossed the ninth for his 27th save in 29 chances.
Santana doffed his cap as he came off the field in the eighth, signaling the end of his outing. Gardenhire said Santana told him, "We've got the best closer in the game. Let him work."
Nathan worked around an error in the ninth, sealing the win for Santana after a performance he ranked among his career best.
"That was a pretty good one, especially the way everything ended up," Santana said. "We won by one run and I got 17 strikeouts. But to see all the fans getting into it and get everything going, that's pretty special.
"This game wouldn't be anything if you didn't have the fans out there. Any time you can get the fans in the game, it's always good. I appreciate everything they do."
Santana's second-half dominance coming into this season has been well-chronicled. From 2003-06, the reigning Cy Young Award winner was 40-4 with a major league-leading 419 strikeouts after the All-Star break.
This season, however, he had gone just 2-3 with 49 strikeouts in seven starts following the All-Star Game. Santana had won just one of his last four decisions and was 1-3 in his last six starts.
But after setting a season high by striking out 13 Rangers when he faced them in Texas on May 22, he matched his career high with 14 strikeouts for the third time in his career.
His last 14-strikeout performance came on June 2, 2005 vs. Cleveland. Santana reached double-digit strikeouts for the fifth time this season and the 37th time in his career.
Santana threw only four sliders, according to pitching coach Rick Anderson, not needing anything besides the great location on his fastball and his devastating changeup.
"You hope he leaves pitches in the wrong spot, that's all you can hope for," Washington said. "You can have all the plans you want. If he has his changeup working the way he did today, your plans go out the door."
How do you hit Santana's changeup?
"The only thing you can do is sit on the changeup and if he throws you three straight fastballs, you're (done)," Washington said.
Lost in the display was a strong showing from his counterpart, Texas starter Kevin Millwood (8-10). After allowing Cuddyer's solo home run to lead off the second inning, Millwood didn't allow another hit until Tommy Watkins' two-out single in the seventh.
Millwood walked five of Minnesota's hitters in between but induced an inning-ending double play from Mike Redmond in the fourth, a soft groundout from Joe Mauer with runners on second and third and two outs in the fifth, and an inning-ending double play from Cuddyer in the sixth.
Mauer's groundout extended the defending AL batting champion's hitless streak to 14 at-bats.
Still, Millwood left frustrated.
"I didn't like it," Millwood said of Sunday's contest. "But he went out and dominated. That's all you can say. You run up against that, you just have to tip your hat."
Millwood gave up back-to-back singles to Watkins and Nick Punto in the seventh, and Punto stole second base to once again put runners on second and third. But Alexi Casilla struck out swinging, pushing the Twins to 0-for-19 with runners in scoring position in their last three games and 2-for-33 in their last four.
Justin Morneau walked three times for the Twins, who managed just four hits in the game.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
- - - - - - - - - - - -
TEXAS 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0
MINNESOTA 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 x 1 4 1 (FINAL)
BATTERIES: TEX - KEVIN MILLWOOD, C.J. WILSON (8TH) AND GERALD LAIRD
MIN - JOHAN SANTANA, JOE NATHAN (9TH) AND MIKE REDMOND
HOME RUNS: TEX - NONE
MIN - MICHAEL CUDDYER (12) OF
Aug 19 4:30 PM
AT MINNESOTA - SCORING UPDATE
SOLO HOME RUN BY MICHAEL CUDDYER (12) TO CENTER WITH 0 OUT
IN THE 2ND OFF KEVIN MILLWOOD.
CURRENT SCORE: TEXAS 0, MINNESOTA 1
DUE UP FOR MINNESOTA: M REDMOND (.289, 1 HR, 28 RBI)
Rangers vs. TwinsAug 19 2:32 PM
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