MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Johan Santana just keeps getting better,
progressing deeper into his personal zone of pitching dominance.
Santana won his 11th straight start with another stellar
performance, striking out a career high 14 in eight shutout innings
for the Minnesota Twins in a 5-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles
By winning his 12th consecutive decision, Santana (19-6) tied a
Twins record set by Scott Erickson in 1991 and matched by Brad
Radke in 1997.
"When he's out there, it's unbelievable," Radke said.
Santana struck out five of his last six batters, jubilantly
jumping off the mound after Tim Raines Jr. went down swinging to
end the eighth. He allowed seven hits and didn't walk a batter,
extending his scoreless inning streak to 30.
"That's amazing, man," catcher Henry Blanco said.
Michael Restovich hit a two-run homer, and Luis Rivas and Blanco
each had solo shots for the Twins, who can clinch their third
straight AL Central title with a victory over the White Sox on
Monday in the opener of a three-game series at Chicago.
"I'm just doing my job," Santana said. "I'm happy to be in
Bruce Chen (1-1) stayed with Santana for a while, but four of
the six hits he allowed were homers -- by Rivas in the third, Blanco
in the sixth and Restovich in the seventh.
"There was nothing I could do," Chen said. "I tried to keep
up with him, but he outpitched me."
Chen, a veteran of nine organizations and eight major league
teams, was coming off his first career complete game -- a five-hit,
one-run performance in a win at Toronto on Monday. Brought up from
Triple-A Ottawa on Aug. 25, Chen struck out seven and walked one in
seven innings. In five starts for the Orioles, he has a 2.45 ERA.
"He's the best pitcher I've faced this year," Raines said.
Miguel Tejada -- the only Orioles starter who didn't strike out --
led off the second with an infield single, but he was erased when
B.J. Surhoff grounded into a double play. Larry Bigbie singled with
one out in the third, but Santana struck out Brian Roberts and
Raines to end it.
"With a guy like him, there is no plan," Tejada said. "You
just try to touch the ball. He can get you out on any pitch."
With Santana's success this summer, local expectations have
risen to extraordinary levels. In the fifth inning, when the count
on Jose Leon reached two strikes, Metrodome public address man Bob
Casey announced the next batter, Jay Gibbons.
A Twins official in the press box quickly informed Casey, "Bob,
he hasn't struck out yet."
Sure enough, two pitches later, Leon swung and missed at strike
"Maybe he was too excited about it or something," Santana
Santana, who fanned the last batter in seven of his eight
innings, had the crowd of 31,399 standing and cheering during
several at-bats. Joe Nathan was booed, albeit good-naturedly, when
he came out for the ninth instead of Santana -- whose 217 innings
are nearly 60 more than his previous career high.
"That was, obviously, not the popular decision," Nathan said.
Santana threw 103 pitches, 78 for strikes.
"His changeup was good, his slider was nasty and his fastball
was absolutely as good as I've seen it," Twins manager Ron
This was Santana's 12th start with 10 or more strikeouts this
year and the 15th of his career. He is four behind Bert Blyleven's
Twins season record of 258, set in 1973. Santana leads the AL in
strikeouts and ERA (2.65), and with two starts left he trails
Boston's Curt Schilling by one in victories.
Santana could become the first Venezuelan to win the Cy Young
"That would be the greatest thing ever for my country," he
Pinch-hitter Rafael Palmeiro hit an RBI single in the
ninth. ... Twins 1B Justin Morneau, bothered by a deep bone bruise
in his left hand, had a cortisone shot before the game and will
miss at least another day. Morneau was hit by a pitch from
Cleveland's C.C. Sabathia on Aug. 22. ... All five of Chen's starts
have been on the road. ... A visiting group from Venezuela sang
"The Star-Spangled Banner." Santana, Rivas and Blanco -- one-third
of Minnesota's defense -- are Venezuelans.