tampabay.com

Rays help Twins ace start new streak

TWINS 7, RAYS 1: Johan Santana, whose 17-win run recently ended, cruises in a six-hitter.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published May 7, 2005


ST. PETERSBURG - Consider these facts about the way Johan Santana pitched Friday night.

The Twins starter threw 92 pitches in nine innings, 76 for strikes. He retired 26 of his last 30, including the final 10, and in the last inning was throwing 95 mph.

In other words, the Devil Rays had no chance against last year's American League Cy Young Award winner as Minnesota cruised to a 7-1 victory at Tropicana Field.

"He is what he is for a reason," Tampa Bay rightfielder Aubrey Huff said. "He's really turned into one of the best pitchers in the game."

Said Santana: "I was able to hit my spots and be aggressive."

Santana's first complete game of the season and first victory since his 17-decision winning streak was snapped May 1 reversed the dynamic the Rays enjoyed during three straight wins over the Yankees.

Whereas Tampa Bay scored 28 on 40 hits in those games, Santana allowed six hits, struck out seven and walked none. He and catcher Joe Mauer, who had a career-high four hits, including a three-run home run, helped take the life out of the generously announced crowd of 8,884.

And Santana, who improved to 5-1 and tied the White Sox's Jon Garland for most AL wins, made the outing of Rays starter Dewon Brazelton look even worse.

Brazelton lasted 32/3 innings, gave up four runs and walked three. His third consecutive loss dropped him to 1-6 with a 6.03 ERA, and manager Lou Piniella said he might put Brazelton in the bullpen.

"If he puts me in the bullpen or does something else, I deserve it," Brazelton said.

Santana deserved his accolades.

"He's a perfect role model for our young kids to pattern themselves after," Piniella said. "He pounded balls into the strike zone all night and used his changeup. Very impressive. The best-looking pitcher we've seen all year."

"The guy just threw strikes all night," shortstop Julio Lugo said. "He threw his changeup whenever he wanted. We didn't put a lot of pressure on him, but he didn't give us a chance. You take a pitch and all of a sudden it's 0-2."

The Rays grabbed a 1-0 first-inning lead when Lugo and Huff blasted back-to-back triples. But Santana got Eduardo Perez to fly to right and Josh Phelps to ground out to third to end the threat.

After that, only three Tampa Bay runners reached second.

"He was leaving his fastball up early," Mauer said. "They were jumping on the fastball, so we mixed it up. He was rolling from there. And then we put up runs."

Mauer's third-inning home run made it 3-1. Justin Morneau's two-run shot off reliever Rob Bell made it 6-1 in the fifth. Santana, like a machine, kept working.

Tampa Bay's final hit was Phelps' two-out double in the sixth. Of the Rays' final 10 batters, only Nick Green and Perez got the ball out of the infield, and Green's fly ball was caught foul.

"It's definitely what you want to see as a starter," Santana said of the complete game. "They were pretty hot and swinging the bat tonight. They put the ball in play, and when you do that you have a chance. We made some plays."

And Santana made some pitches.

"How many balls did he throw ... 16? How about that?" Piniella said. "That is the way to pitch."