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10/02/06 9:28 PM ET

Santana named AL Pitcher of the Month

Ace went 3-1 with a 1.78 ERA and 38 Ks over five starts

What's the best approach for hitters to take against Twins left-hander Johan Santana?

"Just bunt," Torii Hunter said. "I've watched him from center field. I'm like the second catcher, and I see his ball. When he's on, you can't hit him."

Only a handful of players actually hit Santana in September, when he went 3-1 with a 1.78 ERA and 38 strikeouts over five starts. Two of his outings during the month were scoreless, and he lasted eight innings three times. As a result, he was named the American League Pitcher of the Month for September.

"We definitely feel pretty confident [when Santana's on the mound]," Michael Cuddyer said. "His mentality -- he feels unbeatable, I'm sure. You have to have that mentality when you go out there. We always go into games with a great feeling, knowing he's pitching."

Santana, who led the Twins to the postseason with 19 wins and a league-high 245 strikeouts, just might earn a second career Cy Young Award for his performances this season. Heck, he's a legitimate contender for the league's MVP Award, too.

"He should definitely get the consideration," Nick Punto said of the MVP Award. "When we lost [Francisco] Liriano, I'd be lying if I said I didn't think that was a letdown. A couple weeks later, losing [Brad] Radke was another letdown. Johan solidified that rotation to keep everybody positive, and as far as I'm concerned, he is our MVP."

Even if Santana isn't the AL MVP, his success down the stretch makes him an ideal candidate. On Sept. 5, he held the Devil Rays scoreless over eight innings and picked up his 17th win.

In his next outing, he stretched his personal winning streak to nine games with a 12-1 victory over the Tigers.

"We all know it starts with Johan, and he was just unbelievable again," manager Ron Gardenhire said on Sept. 10 after that victory. "Early in the game, it looked like he was fighting and he had a lot of pitches, but he just doesn't give in to anything. He keeps battling."

Santana's next two starts were indeed battles, and he took a no-decision and a loss against the Indians and Red Sox, respectively. He fought back, though, with win No. 19 in his final outing, against the Royals.

As it turned out, the Twins needed all 19 of Santana's victories to win the AL Central. So a Cy Young Award, at the very least, is next, right?

"I'm trying more to win a World Series [more] than a Cy Young," Santana said. "If it happens, it happens, and would be a great accomplishment. But I'm just trying to win as a team. I want to end up the season celebrating [a championship] with my teammates. You don't celebrate by yourself because you win a Cy Young."

Kevin Yanik is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.