10/08/2004 8:30 PM ET
Dominant Santana gets start
Ace not concerned about pitching on three days' rest
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
|Johan Santana tossed seven shutout innings in Game 1 of the ALDS. (Julie Jacobson/AP)
MINNEAPOLIS -- Listening to all the talk about Johan Santana starting Game 4 on Saturday afternoon, you can almost hear the lyrics to the theme song from Gilligan's Island: "On three days' rest ... on THREE DAYS' REST."
To hear Santana discuss it makes it sound like just another boat ride.
"I haven't done it very much," he said, "but this time of year, it doesn't matter. You have to be sure that you're ready because this game counts."
No kidding. With Minnesota's loss in Game 3, Santana will be battling to keep the Twins alive in the series. He'll also be battling history. According to Elias Sports Bureau, pitchers who start on three days rest in the postseason are 16-29 with a 4.49 ERA in 69 starts since 1995.
History is against Santana, but the Twins aren't.
"We have Johan pitching tomorrow, and I like our chances," Torii Hunter said after Game 3. "It sets up pretty well with Johan and Brad [in Game 5]."
Santana himself has never started on three days' rest before, but these are the matters a Cy Young Award favorite must face. It's why manager Ron Gardenhire didn't pitch him deep into his final starts. It's why Kyle Lohse was only discussed as a backup option.
|While Johan Santana has never started on short rest, his work as a reliever in past years suggests he's dealt well with short rest before.
"It was all depending on Santana," Gardenhire said. "We talked about using three guys, and could Santana do this, and we thought he probably would have been able to do that. We're looking at it like that, and Santana wants the ball."
Twins fans obviously want him to have it. Other than coach Al Newman, Santana seemed to receive the loudest ovation of all the Twins introduced prior to Game 3.
The closest Santana came to starting on short rest arguably came in last year's Division Series against the Yankees. Like this time around, he threw in Game 1 at Yankee Stadium and came back to start Game 4 at the Metrodome. Unlike last year, he had an early exit in Game 1 due to an injury, and an extra off day between Games 1 and 2 meant he actually started on regular rest.
Santana was hit around hard in that Game 4 and failed to escape the fourth inning in a must-win situation as the Yankees advanced to the ALCS.
"Last year is last year," Santana said. "It's not even close to what it is this year. We're going to be a little more experienced, mature, knowing the game better. It makes a lot of difference. "
Since he hasn't started on short rest before, it's unknown what kind of affect it could have on his stuff. But then, by nearly everyone's account, he wasn't pitching with his best stuff in Game 1 -- especially his changeup -- and he still managed to shut out the Yankees. With little more than his fastball and slider, he gave up nine hits in seven innings but escaped trouble with four double plays, including two twin-killing grounders that helped the Twins' cause.
"I think you saw that you have to pitch against the Yankees," Gardenhire said. "It doesn't matter who's pitching against the Yankees. You're going to have to battle, I guarantee that. That's a lineup full of All-Stars. That's how good the Yankees are. That's a pretty good lineup to run through. Every pitcher is going to have to struggle."
The way Santana threw in the bullpen during Minnesota's off-day workout Thursday gave pitching coach Rick Anderson encouragement that it wouldn't be a significant hurdle.
"He threw a very good [bullpen] session," Anderson said Thursday. "He says he feels great."
That didn't change a day later. "I feel pretty good," he said, "and that's the most important thing. See how you feel the day after [you pitch], and when you throw your bullpen. I felt pretty good yesterday. Who knows? We'll see what happens."
And even if he doesn't feel at the top of his game, a 19-game unbeaten streak dating back to the All-Star break suggests he knows how to get by. The way he talks about making the start, it's clear he wants to be looked upon as the team ace. Things like this are what an ace does.
This ship isn't looking to capsize.
"For me, you know, it's like when you get into the situation right here, it doesn't matter," Santana said. "You have to go out there and do your best, whatever it takes. It could be three, four, five, 25 days. It doesn't matter. You have to make sure you do your best in order to win the game."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.