10/10/2004 12:18 AM ET
Santana gave Twins best chance
Allowed one run, struck out seven in five innings
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
|Johan Santana was a 20-game winner this year in his first season as a starter. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS -- This is what Cy Young Award-caliber pitchers do. They give their team a chance to win, no matter what.
Johan Santana started on three days' rest for the first time in his career and left after five innings with a 5-1 lead and seven strikeouts against the mighty Yankees lineup. Anyone who had any doubts remaining about Santana's Cy Young credentials -- not that it mattered, since the voting is based on regular season only -- saw a new level of competition out of the Twins ace Saturday.
It's what the great pitchers of the league have done -- Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Randy Johnson. They take the ball when their season is at stake, no matter what. And they keep their team in the game.
"I feel fine," Santana said afterwards. "In this type of game, it doesn't matter. All you've got to do is make sure that you play your best because there's no tomorrow. You've got to make sure you give your team a chance to win the game. I was hoping we could get this win and it didn't happen, but that's the way this game is."
That's the way Santana is. He still smiled in the face of postseason elimination, smiled and shrugged his shoulders. He tried, but it wasn't enough.
In terms of pure pitching, Santana was actually better on three days' rest Saturday than he was on regular rest in Game 1. He had all his pitches working more consistently, not just the fastball, and he mixed them up well. After going heavily to the heater his first time through the Yankees order, he changed speeds the next time around.
The only run he allowed came resulted from two singles. Derek Jeter led off the third inning by slapping a 95 mph fastball through the middle. He scored when Hideki Matsui pulled a slider through the right side with two outs.
Santana changed his approach from Game 1 to Game 4. The Yankees did, too.
"I think they had a different plan," Santana said. "I think they tried to wear me out. They were taking some pitches and they were taking full counts. The last couple of times, they were swinging at the ball early. But I stayed with it the whole time. I was like, 'I'm not going to let you hit me.'"
It's something manager Ron Gardenhire expected. "He threw the ball great," he said of Santana. "If you pay attention to the game, this team really makes you work. They make you labor and they make you work and they made him work again today. That's how good these guys are. He pitched his tail off and then the inning got long."
|Facts machine: Cy in Santana's sights?|
|If Johan Santana wins the AL Cy Young, he'll be at least the fifth winner in the last three years to either not make the postseason or advance past the Division Series. Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson won AL and NL honors, respectively, in 2001. They both pitched in the World Series that year.|
The inning wasn't one Santana pitched, but the Twins hit. It was arguably the only decision the Twins could've really changed in their pitching choices.
Clinging to a 2-1 lead, the Twins scored three more times and sent eight batters to the plate in the bottom of the fifth. Gardenhire planned on using Santana in the sixth and asked how he felt.
"He was going to go back out there," Gardenhire said. "Then the inning got really long and he was trying to stretch, and he told me, 'You'd better get someone to go back out with me.' He told me he was tired and would go at least one more. As the inning went along, you could see he was done."
Santana didn't mention telling Gardenhire to warm somebody up, but he didn't disagree with the choice.
"Gardy asked me how I felt. I felt I was all right," he said. And then after that long inning, he decided to take me out and hand it to the bullpen. At the moment, it was the right move. Everything was right."
A couple of hours later, everything had turned, and Santana was packing up his locker for his eventual trip home instead of heading for Game 5 at Yankee Stadium on Sunday night. He was back in the clubhouse when the Yankees tied the game off his good friend and fellow Venezuelan Juan Rincon.
"Unfortunately, it happened," Santana said. "There's nothing you can do about it. Keep your chin up and keep going. That's the way it is."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.