To say Johan Santana is dominant doesn’t nearly do him justice.
Santana has put up some mind-boggling numbers over the last three-plus months, going 15-2 with a 1.49 ERA since June 9. The 25-year-old left-hander is unbeaten in 11 starts since July 11 and has a 1.38 ERA since the All-Star break.
Santana, who leads the American League in both ERA and strikeouts, has struck out at least 10 in 11 of his last 18 starts. It’s getting to the point where all the players behind him are having trouble staying focused.
“You don’t feel any pressure with him on the mound,” shortstop Cristian Guzman said. “We know when he’s pitching, if we get one run in nine innings he’ll get us the win.”
On Wednesday, Santana was utterly brilliant, hurling seven innings of five-hit ball with no walks and nine strikeouts in a 9-0 win over Baltimore. He didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning and didn’t allow a runner past second base.
“To me, it’s all about setting the tone,” Santana said. “When you’re able to set the tone, everything pays off.”
The Orioles were completely mesmerized by his array of pitches.
“He has an excellent changeup, great fastball, good slider. That’s a pretty good combination,” Baltimore’s David Segui said. “That’s one of best lefties I’ve ever faced. His changeup—even if you sit on it and get it—the action on it is pretty impressive.”
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he doesn’t see his ace left-hander faltering any time soon.
“It’s pretty much consistent,” Gardenhire said. “He goes out with that kind of performance. … He’s on a roll now and it’s lasting a long time. Every fifth day we get to give him the ball.”
The AL Central-leading Twins have won six in a row and 11 of 13, including a 5-3 victory over Detroit on Monday.
Despite an 11-0 loss to Anaheim on Sunday, the White Sox have won eight of 12. However, they have virtually no shot of making the playoffs. Chicago is 26-32 since the All-Star break, 20-28 since moving a season-high 10 games above .500 at 52-42.
“Looking at the schedule a few months ago, I thought these would be huge games,” first baseman Paul Konerko said of the matchup with the Twins. “Now, it’s not looking that way.”
Carlos Lee and Aaron Rowand are two of the few hitters in baseball who have found success against Santana. Lee is 8-for-21 with three home runs and seven RBIs, while Rowand is 6-for-17 with one home run and two RBIs.