MINNEAPOLIS -- Though the Minnesota Twins fell out of postseason contention much earlier, Johan Santana kept on dominating right until the end.
Turning in one last stellar start in his long-shot Cy Young Award bid, Santana gave up three hits in seven innings and led the Twins past the Detroit Tigers 6-4 in Sunday's season finale.
Carlos Pena's fifth-inning homer was the only blemish for Santana, who escaped a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the seventh. Last year's AL Cy Young winner, Santana (16-7) walked two and struck out nine, raising his major league-leading total to 238. He also just missed his second consecutive AL ERA title, finishing at 2.87, behind Cleveland's Kevin Millwood at 2.86.
"Hopefully they consider that," Santana said. "What's going to happen? I don't know."
Bartolo Colon, 21-8 for the Los Angeles Angels, is the likely front-runner.
"This year, if I'm voting, I'm voting for Colon," Tigers manager Alan Trammell said.
For the Twins, the choice is easy -- especially since their offensive woes cost Santana several sure wins.
"That's out of his control," said Joe Nathan, who picked up his 43rd save in 48 chances with a 1-2-3 ninth. "Hopefully the other numbers prove to be stronger."
Matthew LeCroy hit a three-run homer for Minnesota, which swept this three-game series but wound up with a 83-79 record after winning the AL Central three straight times. Santana, who threw 106 pitches, reached a career high with 231 2/3 innings.
"I feel like I did my job," said Santana, who went 9-2 with a 1.59 ERA after the All-Star break.
Detroit, in what might have been Trammell's final game, came within one run after scoring three in the eighth against Jesse Crain -- the last two on a homer by Chris Shelton. Scheduled to meet with president and general manager Dave Dombrowski on Monday to discuss his future, Trammell presided over three disappointing seasons -- going 43-119, 72-90 and now 71-91.
"I'm going to sit down with Trams and review what's going on," said Dombrowski, who finished his fourth year with the club. "It's an important day."
After fielding numerous questions about his status throughout the past week, Trammell had little left to say about his job status -- just another lament over a less-than-stellar effort by his team.
"Regardless of what happens tomorrow, sloppy baseball stinks," he said. "My name's on that, and that's not what I'm about."
Detroit starter Nate Robertson fell behind 3-0 on LeCroy's big hit in the first and 5-1 in the fifth on RBI singles by Jason Tyner and Luis Rodriguez. Robertson (7-16) completed seven innings, taking a sharp line drive by Joe Mauer off his toe on a ball that went for a double play on his last pitch. Robertson allowed 10 hits and five runs while striking out four.
The lineup the Tigers trotted out wasn't their best, but Trammell said that it wasn't worth risking the health of some veterans who have fought various injuries this season. So five regulars, shortstop Carlos Guillen, right fielder Magglio Ordonez, second baseman Placido Polanco, catcher Ivan Rodriguez and designated hitter Dmitri Young all rested.
With the way Santana was throwing, it really didn't matter. Mixing his baffling changeup with a fastball that had plenty of zip and a slider that had plenty of dip, Santana retired the first 13 batters until Pena hammered a one-out pitch well over the center-field wall in the fifth.
Santana paid Pena back in the seventh, striking him out on a full count after consecutive singles by Chris Shelton and Marcus Thames. He walked Omar Infante to load the bases with one out, prompting a mound visit by manager Ron Gardenhire -- and a few boos from fans in the crowd of 20,160 who believed Santana was coming out.
But Gardenhire -- after making sure his ace had enough gas left -- stuck with Santana, who got Vance Wilson to ground into an inning-ending double play.
"He pretty much showed why he's one of the best pitchers in the game," Thames said. "He has good stuff, and he had it on."