MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Though the Minnesota Twins fell out of
postseason contention much earlier, Johan Santana kept on
dominating right until the end.
Turning in one last stellar start in his long-shot Cy Young
Award bid, Santana gave up three hits in seven innings and led the
Twins past the Detroit Tigers 6-4 in Sunday's season finale.Carlos Pena's fifth-inning homer was the only blemish for
Santana, who escaped a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the
seventh. Last year's AL Cy Young winner, Santana (16-7) walked two
and struck out nine, raising his major league-leading total to 238.
He also just missed his second consecutive AL ERA title, finishing
at 2.87, behind Cleveland's Kevin Millwood at 2.86."Hopefully they consider that," Santana said. "What's going
to happen? I don't know."Bartolo Colon, 21-8 for the Los Angeles Angels, is the likely
front-runner."This year, if I'm voting, I'm voting for Colon," Tigers
manager Alan Trammell said.For the Twins, the choice is easy -- especially since their
offensive woes cost Santana several sure wins."That's out of his control," said Joe Nathan, who picked up
his 43rd save in 48 chances with a 1-2-3 ninth. "Hopefully the
other numbers prove to be stronger."Matthew LeCroy hit a three-run homer for Minnesota, which swept
this three-game series but wound up with a 83-79 record after
winning the AL Central three straight times. Santana, who threw 106
pitches, reached a career high with 231 2/3 innings."I feel like I did my job," said Santana, who went 9-2 with a
1.59 ERA after the All-Star break.Detroit, in what might have been Trammell's final game, came
within one run after scoring three in the eighth against Jesse
Crain -- the last two on a homer by Chris Shelton. Scheduled to meet
with president and general manager Dave Dombrowski on Monday to
discuss his future, Trammell presided over three disappointing
seasons -- going 43-119, 72-90 and now 71-91."I'm going to sit down with Trams and review what's going on,"
said Dombrowski, who finished his fourth year with the club. "It's
an important day."After fielding numerous questions about his status throughout
the past week, Trammell had little left to say about his job status
-- just another lament over a less-than-stellar effort by his team."Regardless of what happens tomorrow, sloppy baseball stinks,"
he said. "My name's on that, and that's not what I'm about."Detroit starter Nate Robertson fell behind 3-0 on LeCroy's big
hit in the first and 5-1 in the fifth on RBI singles by Jason Tyner
and Luis Rodriguez. Robertson (7-16) completed seven innings,
taking a sharp line drive by Joe Mauer off his toe on a ball that
went for a double play on his last pitch. Robertson allowed 10 hits
and five runs while striking out four.The lineup the Tigers trotted out wasn't their best, but
Trammell said that it wasn't worth risking the health of some
veterans who have fought various injuries this season. So five
regulars, shortstop Carlos Guillen, right fielder Magglio Ordonez,
second baseman Placido Polanco, catcher Ivan Rodriguez and
designated hitter Dmitri Young all rested.With the way Santana was throwing, it really didn't matter.
Mixing his baffling changeup with a fastball that had plenty of zip
and a slider that had plenty of dip, Santana retired the first 13
batters until Pena hammered a one-out pitch well over the
center-field wall in the fifth.Santana paid Pena back in the seventh, striking him out on a
full count after consecutive singles by Chris Shelton and Marcus
Thames. He walked Omar Infante to load the bases with one out,
prompting a mound visit by manager Ron Gardenhire -- and a few boos
from fans in the crowd of 20,160 who believed Santana was coming
out.But Gardenhire -- after making sure his ace had enough gas left --
stuck with Santana, who got Vance Wilson to ground into an
inning-ending double play."He pretty much showed why he's one of the best pitchers in the
game," Thames said. "He has good stuff, and he had it on."
Pena is 6-for-18 in his career against Santana with two
homers. In 38 games since being recalled from Triple-A on Aug. 17,
Pena has 15 homers. ... Santana became the first Minnesota pitcher
to lead the majors in strikeouts.