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Defense lets up, Santana does rest
TWINS 8, RAYS 0: The Rays get three hits and commit as many errors.
By MARC TOPKIN
Published September 6, 2006
[Times photo: James Borchuck]
Juan Salas made his major-league debut in relief for the Rays in the seventh inning, giving up three runs, two earned.
ST. PETERSBURG - The Devil Rays had it hard enough trying to beat the Twins with ace Johan Santana on the mound. They didn't make it any easier on themselves with a sloppy performance in an ugly 8-0 loss.
How bad was it?
Well, they had as many errors (three) as hits.
Rookie rightfielder Delmon Young made one of the errors, misplaying a hard-hit drive by Torii Hunter in the three-run Minnesota seventh that broke open the game.
But the 20-year-old, in his eighth major-league game, might have saved the Rays from the ultimate embarrassment of being no-hit, rapping a double off the right-centerfield wall in the fourth and blooping a single into left-center in the seventh.
Otherwise, Santana was nearly perfect as he picked up his major-league leading 17th win and lowered his AL-leading ERA to 2.84.
"Their guy is good," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Particularly today because last time we saw him he didn't have the same command of his fastball down as he did today. His fastball was down, and then he throws his slider and changeup off that that thing and you have no idea which one of the three pitches it is.
"He was very impressive. I've seen him good, that's almost as good as I've seen him."
Santana retired the first 10, gave up the double to Young, then set down the next eight. He allowed only two hits over his eight innings and struck out 12, one shy of his season high.
The Rays were trying to hit Santana's fastball, but he kept them off-balance, constantly mixing in his slider and changeup.
It is the changeup that is most troubling, and hardest for the Rays to hit - or describe.
"It's a Looney Tunes changeup," B.J. Upton said. "It's ridiculous."
It was the 14th straight time the Twins have beaten the Rays, a streak that extends to June 2004 and is the second longest current streak for one team against another, topped only by Seattle's 15 consecutive losses to Oakland.
The Rays created their own mess in the fourth, helping the Twins score three runs.
First they messed up a rundown play, with the Twins ending up with runners on second and third after Michael Cuddyer knocked the ball loose from third baseman Upton.
Then they made a big mistake on a fly ball to left, with the Twins scoring a run after Carl Crawford's throw sailed into the screen behind home plate.
Then the Rays failed in their strategy of intentionally walking Rondell White, with the Twins getting another run when ex-Ray Jason Tyner laced a double to left-center.
Cuddyer started the rally with a double that whizzed by Upton down the leftfield line. The two grew up near each other in the Virginia area and are longtime friends.
The Twins got three more in the seventh, giving rookie reliever Juan Salas a tough introduction to the majors. After getting two quick outs, he allowed a walk, a Cuddyer double (that should have been a home run had the umpires seen the ball hit off a fan), a Justin Morneau triple and a well-struck ball by Hunter that Young botched for a two-base error.
There was some good news for the Rays. Jae Seo, out since Aug. 20 with a groin strain, made a solid return to the rotation, throwing 94 pitches over six innings, scattering eight hits but allowing only the one earned run.