MINNEAPOLIS -- It's the middle of August and the Minnesota Twins are in the playoff hunt.
That has meant one thing over the past four seasons -- it's Santana time.
"That's what we call a baller," Twins center fielder Torii Hunter said. "He smells that wild card. I smell that wild card. We've both been around. We've been in the playoffs. We know what it takes to get there."
Michael Cuddyer drove in two runs and Joe Mauer had an RBI single for the Twins, who stopped Cleveland's six-game winning streak and pulled within two games of Chicago in the AL wild-card race. Santana (14-5) struck out nine and walked one before Joe Nathan gave up an RBI single to Travis Hafner in the ninth.
"One of the best pitchers in the game, if not THE best pitcher in the game, shut them down," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Santana is 18-1 with a 1.80 ERA and 174 strikeouts in 21 August starts dating to 2002.
"I always try to get better and better and better every start," said Santana, who is pitching with a painful blister and split nail on his left middle finger.
Indians right-hander Jake Westbrook (9-8) was fantastic for 7 2/3 innings, but fell apart with two outs in the eighth.
The Twins were clinging to a 1-0 lead when Luis Castillo singled and Mauer was intentionally walked. Castillo and Mauer then pulled off a double steal before Cuddyer's two-run single brought the Metrodome crowd to its feet.
Hunter added an RBI single to cap the three-run inning. Westbrook gave up four runs and eight hits in eight innings.
"My job is to keep the team in the ballgame and I didn't do it," Westbrook said. "My job is to put up a zero in the eighth to give us a chance in the ninth."
Santana's performance should come as no surprise. He simply does not lose at the Metrodome.
The 2004 AL Cy Young Award winner has not lost in the Dome since Aug. 6, 2005, going 12-0 in his last 19 home starts. It's the best such streak for a Twins pitcher since Frank Viola went 19-0 in 24 home starts from 1987-88.
For Westbrook, it seemed to be a matter of bad timing.
The last time he was here, Westbrook was solid, giving up three runs over six innings. But Twins lefty Francisco Liriano was even better in Minnesota's 3-1 victory.
This time, Westbrook was outpitched by another left-hander.
"With a guy like that, I need to be on my game," Westbrook said. "I put up a lot of zeros, but not enough."
Aside from warning-track shots by Hector Luna in the fourth and Ryan Garko in the eighth, the Indians were completely baffled by Santana. He retired 14 of 15 batters after walking Grady Sizemore in the third and struck out Jhonny Peralta and Kelly Shoppach three times each.
Santana got a little help from his defense in the seventh, when Luna hit what looked like a sure double down the right-field line. But Cuddyer tracked it down in the corner and threw out Luna at second with a one-hop strike.
The Twins got on the board in the third after Jason Bartlett doubled and advanced to third on a sacrifice by Castillo.
Mauer, who entered the game in a 1-for-11 skid, followed by muscling a grounder through the right side for a 1-0 lead.
And after Westbrook intentionally walked Mauer in the eighth to get to Cuddyer, the cleanup hitter gave the Twins all the insurance they needed. Cuddyer has been in that situation plenty of times this season.
"That's because the guy in front of me is hitting .370," Cuddyer said, referring to Mauer. "I take great pride in that situation, because if you don't come through, they continue to do that. Hopefully, Joe will start getting some of those opportunities and they won't walk him. But until then, I have to come through."
|Johan Santana earns his 14th win with a gem. He is 12-0 in his last 19 home starts. (AP)|
|Players of the Game|
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|Grady Sizemore, CF||2||1||0||0||2||1||0||.303|
|Jason Michaels, LF||4||0||0||0||0||0||1||.268|
|Travis Hafner, DH||4||0||1||1||0||0||0||.302|
|Victor Martinez, 1B||4||0||1||0||0||0||1||.315|
|Jhonny Peralta, SS||3||0||0||0||0||3||1||.248|
|a- Shin-Soo Choo, PH||1||0||0||0||0||1||1||.317|
|Hector Luna, 2B||3||0||2||0||0||0||1||.280|
|Kelly Shoppach, C||3||0||0||0||0||3||1||.250|
|Franklin Gutierrez, RF||3||0||0||0||0||1||0||.240|
|Andy Marte, 3B||2||0||0||0||0||1||0||.105|
|b- Ryan Garko, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.333|
|Aaron Boone, 3B||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.245|
|a-struck out for Peralta in the 9th|
|b-flied out for Marte in the 8th|
|RBI - Travis Hafner (105)|
|Team LOB - 4|
|Outfield Assists - Jason Michaels 1|
|DP - Peralta-Luna-Martinez|
|Jake Westbrook (L,9-8)||8||8||4||4||3||3||0||4.20|
|IBB - Mauer by Jake Westbrook, by Morneau|
|Pitches-Strikes - Jake Westbrook 110-64|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jake Westbrook 13-6|
|Batters Faced - Jake Westbrook 33|
|Luis Castillo, 2B||3||1||1||0||0||0||0||.285|
|Jason Tyner, LF||4||0||1||0||0||0||1||.314|
|Joe Mauer, C||2||1||1||1||2||0||0||.362|
|Michael Cuddyer, RF||4||1||2||2||0||1||3||.264|
|Justin Morneau, 1B||3||0||0||0||1||0||3||.316|
|Torii Hunter, CF||4||0||2||1||0||1||0||.273|
|Jason Kubel, DH||3||0||0||0||0||0||1||.262|
|Luis Rodriguez, 3B||3||0||0||0||0||1||0||.205|
|Jason Bartlett, SS||3||1||1||0||0||0||0||.355|
|2B - Jason Bartlett (14, Westbrook)|
|SH - Luis Castillo (8)|
|RBI - Joe Mauer (65), Michael Cuddyer 2 (74), Torii Hunter (60)|
|2-OUT RBI - Joe Mauer (30), Michael Cuddyer 2 (39), Torii Hunter (30)|
|SB - Luis Castillo (18, 3rd base off Westbrook/Shoppach), Joe Mauer (8, 2nd base off Westbrook/Shoppach)|
|Team LOB - 5|
|Outfield Assists - Michael Cuddyer 1|
|Johan Santana (W,14-5)||8||3||0||0||1||9||0||3.10|
|Pitches-Strikes - Johan Santana 99-67, Joe Nathan 26-15|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Johan Santana 4-10, Joe Nathan 1-1|
|Batters Faced - Johan Santana 27, Joe Nathan 5|
|Attendance - 34854|
|Game Time - 2:12|
|Temperature - 70|
|Umpires - Home - Jeff Nelson, First Base - Rob Drake, Second Base - Derryl Cousins, Third Base - Ed Hickox|