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Twins blank Yanks in opener10/05/2004 11:00 PM ET
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- Walking a tightrope, swimming with sharks or wrestling a grizzly bear. Those hazardous stunts might seem like child's play for Johan Santana after Tuesday night. The lefty already flirted with a different kind of danger -- a powerful Yankees lineup that was given several chances to beat him -- and survived unscathed. Santana didn't have his best stuff all night, giving up nine hits, but he battled for seven scoreless innings in a 2-0 win over New York on Tuesday in Game 1 of the best-of-five American League Division Series. "I think he pitched with a lot of heart tonight," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Pretty good stuff, too, but a lot of heart." Boosting Santana was four of the Yankees' five double plays on the night -- a new nine-inning postseason record. A sixth-inning solo home run from Jacque Jones also provided a little breathing room. This was a huge win for Minnesota. By taking a 1-0 lead in the series, they erased New York's home-field advantage. "It is a great feeling, you know, to beat the New York Yankees, one of the best teams in baseball," said Santana, who won his first postseason game. "But also it's good for the team because now we know, taking Game 1, we go back home and have a chance to win the division [series]." Santana walked one, hit a batter while striking out five -- a bit of a departure for the pitcher who led the AL with 265 strikeouts this season. "A lot of people were expecting me to get strikeouts and get whatever," Santana said. "It was all about throwing the right pitch at the right time and then stay focused, stay composed all the time. Not trying to overdo things and then just trying to make the right pitch."
Runners were on the corners with one out in the second when John Olerud flied out to center field. Jorge Posada tried to tag up from third base, but was nailed at the plate on a perfect throw from Hunter to Blanco to end the inning."Hunter gave me a good throw, right on the money," Blanco said. "He's the best center fielder in the game. I just made the catch." It proved to be a turning point in the game. Minnesota responded with its tried and true small ball style and scored its first run in the bottom of the third. Michael Cuddyer hit a leadoff single off Yankee starter Mike Mussina (0-1), with Blanco sacrifice bunting the runner to second. Cuddyer then scored on Shannon Stewart's RBI single for a 1-0 Twins lead. Santana continued to battle in the fourth and fifth. Williams' leadoff single was erased when Posada grounded into a double play. Derek Jeter's 6-4-3 double play ended the fifth. "We do the intangibles. Tonight was no different," said Cuddyer, who was 2-for-3.
"He got the groundball when he needed it," said Hunter, who was 1-for-4. "That showed me a lot. Johan is probably one of the best pitchers in the game."Santana was 20-6 with a league-leading 2.61 ERA and likely nailed down the AL Cy Young Award by going 13-0 after the All-Star break. With one out in the sixth, Jones reached out for Mussina's 0-1 pitch away and drove a homer to left field. Once the ball cleared the fence, Jones pumped his first and leapt excitedly. As he touched home plate, he pointed a finger above in a salute to his father -- who died Thursday of cancer. Santana then survived what was nearly a wrong call by the umpire in the seventh. Ruben Sierra lifted a deep ball that hooked left of the foul pole, but was originally ruled a homer by left-field umpire Jerry Crawford. Gardenhire appealed the call and it was overruled. Santana went on to strike out Sierra and was out of the game with 93 pitches thrown. Juan Rincon pitched the eighth, with closer Joe Nathan getting the save in the ninth. "He's tough," Blanco said of Santana. "He's going to make some pitches. Obviously, he was getting most of the plate than before but he's still tough. He made good pitches when he needed to. You could see the result."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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