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Santana, Twins topple Tribe, 3-2



Published: Sat, April 16, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Minnesota ace has won 16 straight decisions.

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 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.

Good pitcher

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.

Getting help

J.C. Romero worked the seventh inning, Juan Rincon pitched the eighth and Joe Nathan finished for his third save. The Minnesota trio hasn't allowed an earned run in 16 1/3 innings this season.

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.




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