Santana's effort wasted
Twins ace did enough to earn win in Game 4
By Gordon Wittenmyer
Knight Ridder Newspapers
MINNEAPOLIS -- When; asked about bringing back ace pitcher Johan Santana on short rest despite the history of failure by teams that have done that in the postseason, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire scoffed at history.
Since Santana never had done it, he had no history, Gardenhire said.
"We'll make history," he said.
Not quite. But the move worked as well as the Twins had a right to expect, nonetheless.
Santana, who hasn't lost since before the all-star break, held a rollicking lid on the Yankees' pressure-cooker lineup long enough for the Twins to take a 5-1 lead over the Yankees in the Twins' must-win Game 4 playoff game Saturday.
He wasn't as sharp as usual, but he had enough velocity and enough command of his changeup to get through five innings, allowing one run on five hits and three walks. Seven strikeouts, including five with men on base, helped limit the damage.
And when reliever Grant Balfour followed with two perfect innings to finish what would have been Santana's usual seven innings, the move was a success.
Whatever happened after the seventh, including the Yankees' four-run eighth off setup ace Juan Rincon to tie, it had nothing to do with Santana starting on three days' rest for the first time in his career.
If not for Rincon's meltdown, Santana would have had his 15th consecutive victory.
As it was, he improved his 17-start earned-run average since the all-star break to 1.16, including two postseason starts against the Yankees.
He also lowered his four-start postseason ERA against the Yankees to 3.20 -- with all but one of the seven runs he has allowed in those starts scoring in the final inning he pitched against them last year.
He has allowed one run against the Yankees in 12 innings during this series (0.75).
Santana had runners on base in every inning he pitched Saturday but allowed only a third-inning run on Hideki Matsui's two-out single to right field, sending home Derek Jeter, who had led off with a single up the middle.
He had two runners on in the second with one out but struck out John Olerud and got Miguel Cairo to fly to right.
He had runners at first and second in the fourth but struck out Jeter to end the inning. After a leadoff walk to Alex Rodriguez in the fifth, he struck out Gary Sheffield and Matsui back to back, then got Bernie Williams to ground to short to end the fifth, and his outing.