CLEVELAND (AP)—Johan Santana wasn’t quite himself. He didn’t have his typical fastball, curve or changeup. For one of the rare times in the past year, Minnesota’s ace actually looked like he could be beaten.
But as usual, he wasn’t.
Santana won his 16th straight decision, pitching six strong innings as the Twins won their fifth straight, 3-2 over the Cleveland Indians on Friday night.
The 2004 AL Cy Young Award winner, Santana (3-0) remained unbeaten since July 11 of last season, a stretch of 20 starts that included two postseason outings against New York. He allowed two runs and six hits.
“Good pitchers find a way to win,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said, “and that’s what he did.”
In improving to 5-0 in his career against Cleveland and outdueling Jake Westbrook (0-3), Santana became the first pitcher to win 16 straight decisions since Roger Clemens, who did it for the Yankees in 2001.
Santana settled down after allowing two runs—on solo homers to Victor Martinez and Ryan Ludwick—in the second inning. The left-hander walked none and struck out 10 before turning it over to Minnesota’s bullpen in the seventh.
Of all the mind-boggling numbers Santana has posted in the past year, one stands out: He’s 21-2 in his last 25 starts. Although he gets little publicity playing for the mid-market Twins, there’s no debate that he’s the AL’s best pitcher.
“I know he’s got some long streak going where he hasn’t lost a game,” Ludwick said. “He won the Cy Young last season, that says he’s pretty good. He left a couple pitches up to Vic and me but then he turned himself around. The guy’s a good pitcher.”
Santana didn’t win his third game until mid-May last season and then reeled off 18 more. Although he’s way ahead of that pace, Santana isn’t trying to duplicate what he did in ’04.
“Last year was last year,” he said. “This is the beginning of 2005. It’s a new year.”
Santana was reminded that he said his only goal this season was improving last year’s 20-6 record to 21-6. Well, what about going 34-0?
“No, 35-0, man,” he joked.
The Twins made two nice defensive plays behind Nathan in the ninth. Shannon Stewart ran down a shot to the left-field corner before third baseman Juan Castro, a late-inning defensive replacement, nabbed Jhonny Peralta’s bad-hop grounder.
“I don’t think I’ve seen one better,” Gardenhire said. “The ball took a bad hop right at his lips. I don’t know how he did it.”
Westbrook had his second tough loss this season, allowing just one earned run and three hits in eight innings. But it was the right-hander’s throwing error in the second inning that helped do him in.
Westbrook retired the final 14 batters he faced, but lost his second one-run game this season.
For the first time in 10 games, the Twins scored first, taking a 2-0 lead with a pair of unearned runs in the second.
LeCroy walked leading off and Westbrook got Torii Hunter to hit an easy comebacker that should have been a routine double play. However, the right-hander threw wildly into center field, putting runners at first and second and Terry Tiffee brought them in with a two-out, two-run single.
“I screwed up,” Westbrook said. “I made a terrible throw. That definitely cost us.”
The Indians have made an error in each of their first 10 games, and lead the majors with 13 miscues. … Santana has reached double-digits in strikeouts 16 times in 78 career starts. … Indians OF Juan Gonzalez still hasn’t been able to play in a game at extended spring training and manager Eric Wedge has no idea when he might take the field. … Gardenhire made DH Jacques Jones promise he would stay in the clubhouse and not the dugout during the game. “He wears me out,” Gardenhire joked. “He walks by me on the bench and chants, ‘Let him play, let him play.”’ … The Indians are 2-5 in one-run games.