ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—Johan Santana made it look easy.
The AL Cy Young Award winner rebounded from his first loss in a nearly a year, scattering six hits for his second career complete game to lead the Minnesota Twins over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 7-1 Friday night.
“He can shut a lot of teams down,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He always gives you a chance to win, and he didn’t give them much chance to really get into the game. That’s what a good starter does.”
Joe Mauer went 4-for-5 with a three-run homer, and Justin Morneau added a two-run shot in support of Santana, who won for the 18th time in his last 19 decisions. The Twins have won seven of 10 and halted Tampa Bay’s three-game winning streak.
“They were pretty hot and they were swinging the bat tonight,” Santana said. “They put the ball in play, and when you do that, you’ve got a chance. That was the case tonight, but we were able to make some plays.”
Santana (5-1) struck out seven and walked none, and the Devil Rays went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position after Aubrey Huff drove in the only run off the left-hander with a one-out triple in the first.
The Minnesota ace joined Chicago’s Jon Garland as the AL’s only five-game winners. His other complete game was a three-hitter last July 6 against Kansas City.
“Watching Santana pitch, he’s a perfect role model for our young players to pattern themselves after,” Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella said.
“He pounded pitches into the strike zone all night. He’s the best pitcher we’ve seen all year. How many balls did he throw all night? Sixteen? Pretty impressive. That’s the way to pitch.”
Mauer matched a career high with four hits, including his homer off Dewon Brazelton (1-6) for a 3-1 lead in the third. Morneau homered off Rob Bell in the fifth, and Shannon Stewart added a RBI single to make it 7-1 in the sixth.
Santana lost a 17-game winning streak dating to July despite allowing just two hits—both home runs—in eight innings of a 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday. He threw 92 pitches Friday night, 76 for strikes.
“We didn’t put too much pressure on him. He was fresh all night,” Tampa Bay’s Julio Lugo said. “It’s one of those nights that you tip your hat and let it go.”
Brazelton allowed four runs and five hits in 3 2-3 innings, losing for the 10th time in 11 decisions. Mauer’s homer was the ninth off the 24-year-old right-hander, and the Devil Rays’ opening day starter could be headed for the bullpen.
“If you pitch like that, that’s where you belong. … It’s nobody’s fault but mine,” Brazelton said.
The Devil Rays batted .392 and scored 28 runs in beating the New York Yankees the previous three nights. They looked as if they might be headed for another big night offensively when Lugo and Huff had back-to-back triples for a 1-0 lead in the first.
Santana settled, though, to retire 13 of 14 batters after Huff’s hit, with the only runner reaching base during the stretch—Charles Johnson—doubling on a low line drive that right fielder Jacque Jones nearly caught.
“Somewhere around the third or fourth inning he really got into the flow of the game,” Gardenhire said.
“That’s a good-hitting lineup over there. They banged the Yankees around pretty good this last series. We knew coming in that they were swinging the bats very good and we had to shut them down.”
Santana has pitched seven or more innings in 23 of his last 29 starts, going 23-3 during that stretch. … The Twins have pitched complete games the past two days. Brad Radke beat Cleveland 9-0 on Thursday. … Devil Rays RF Alex Sanchez had the night off after going 3-for-3, stealing two bases and scoring four times in Thursday night’s victory over the Yankees. He has a 10-game hitting streak and scored a run in each of the games. … The Twins claimed RHP Daylan Childress off waivers from Cincinnati and assigned him to Triple-A Rochester.