10/05/2003 5:52 PM ET
Santana lacks groove in Game 4
MINNEAPOLIS -- Johan Santana seemed poised for another sterling start in Game 4 of American League Division Series vs. the Yankees. He was locked into a scoreless pitchers' duel with New York lefty David Wells and retired 10 of his first 11 batters.
Then seemingly on a dime -- everything changed. The Yankees have a way of doing that to pitchers, even the good ones like Santana.
New York scored six runs in the fourth and went on to an 8-1 victory to clinch the best-of-five series, 3-1. The six-run inning was second most in Division Series history.
"I was doing what I was doing before, just trying to throw the ball for strikes," Santana said. "They were able to hit the ball in the right spot. It's about adjustments. They made the right adjustments and hit the ball very well."
After Derek Jeter was Santana's third strikeout victim of the game leading off the fourth, New York began clicking on Santana. The pinstripes cracked four-straight hits, including three doubles.
Jason Giambi ripped a long double through the gap in left-center field. On an 0-2 count, Santana left a slider over the middle of the plate for Bernie Williams, who pulled double down the left-field line, scoring Giambi with the Yankees' first run.
"He started elevating up with his pitches," pitching coach Rick Anderson said. "They made him pay."
Jorge Posada's single through the hole near shortstop put runners on the corners. Hideki Matsui stroked an RBI ground-rule over the fence in center field that scored Williams.
"He just made some pitches out and over the plate," said manager Ron Gardenhire, who visited the mound after Aaron Boone popped to shortstop for the second out. "Unfortunately, they were able to bang them today. You get away with them sometimes, but not too often against those guys."
After Santana ran a 2-0 count on Juan Rivera, he issued the intentional walk that loaded the bases. On a 1-2 fastball, Nick Johnson ripped a double to right-center field that scored Posada and Matsui.
"I just thought we didn't execute some pitches," Anderson said. "We didn't put away hitters when there were two strikes."
Gardenhire lifted Santana for Juan Rincon, who gave up a bloop single to left field that scored Johnson and Rivera. That closed the book on Santana's day with six runs and six hits allowed over 3 2/3 innings.
"Santana, I don't think, was as sharp as he could have been," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "They made some adjustments and hit some good pitches and hit some bad pitches. We just unraveled there in a big inning."
The inning was the polar opposite of the four scoreless innings Santana threw in Game 1 on Tuesday during Minnesota's 3-1 victory at Yankee Stadium. A right hamstring cramp ended the outing before the lefty could return for a fifth inning.
Santana said the hamstring did not play a part for him Sunday.
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
"I tried to keep it out my mind," the 24-year-old said. "It was there but I felt ok. When I covered first (on a second-inning grounder), I felt some tightness in my right leg. I tried to make sure I took it nice and easy on that play."
A poor postseason start does not a season make for Santana. After starting the year in the bullpen, he merely helped resurrect a limping Twins rotation near the All-Star break and vaulted himself into being the go-to guy in two playoff games.
Santana, who went into the rotation full time July 11 after three spot starts, was 11-2 with a 2.85 ERA as a starter, including 8-1 after the break. His 5-0 record and 1.07 ERA in August earned AL Pitcher of the Month honors.
The off-season will be spent at home in Venezuela, resting and strengthening the hamstring and thinking about 2004.
"I want to make sure I come back to Spring Training healthy and strong," Santana said. "We'll see what happens next year. Hopefully, I'll start with being in the rotation and make sure we go back to the same thing as this year."
Last spring, Santana was moved into the rotation after Eric Milton's knee injury only to be taken back out of it when Kenny Rogers was signed. No such worries this time around.
"He had a heck of a year for us," Anderson said. "He'll come to Spring Training and the rotation will be his job coming in. There will be no surprises."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This report was not subject to the approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.