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This One's Not So Smooth for Santana

October 06, 2003|From Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — By the time Johan Santana trudged off the mound to polite applause at the Metrodome on Sunday, it was clear the series had slipped away from the Minnesota Twins.

After getting off to a sensational start behind Santana in the opener, the Twins never looked the same against the New York Yankees.

The Twins lost three in a row and were eliminated from the AL playoffs with an 8-1 defeat. Santana was roughed up early for six runs.

"Johan's a nasty guy, and they hit him hard," Torii Hunter said in a quiet Twin clubhouse after the game. "I can't believe that."

Five days after Santana's impressive performance at Yankee Stadium helped his team beat New York for the first time in two years, the Twins and their fans were counting on him to extend their season by at least one more game.

He started strong, retiring nine straight batters. But Jason Giambi started a six-run burst in the fourth with the first of four doubles in the inning. Manager Ron Gardenhire pulled Santana after Nick Johnson doubled to make it 4-0 and put runners at second and third.

"I was trying to throw the ball for strikes," Santana said. "I think I left all those pitches over the plate, so they were able to hit it to the right spot. I tried to come back, but it was too late.

"Just like that, I was out of the game."

The performance was a stark contrast to the last time he pitched.

On Tuesday, the 24-year-old lefty set the tone by allowing only three hits in four shutout innings. He left with a leg cramp before the fifth and the Twins went on to a 3-1 win over their heavily favored opponents.

The Twins were still feeling good about their chances even after the Yankees won Game 2. Up until then, Minnesota had never lost back-to-back playoff games in one season at the Metrodome.

But by the time Santana left Sunday after throwing 55 pitches, the crowd -- realizing the Twins were facing their largest deficit of the series -- was quiet, and Minnesota was overmatched.

"They're smart hitters over there," pitching coach Rick Anderson said. "You get them out one way one time, the next time up, they're licking them."

Santana said his leg didn't bother him today. The problem was the adjustments the Yankees made from Game 1.

"They hit the ball to the right spot," he said. "There's nothing you can do about it."

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The Twins went 11-1 at the Metrodome in the postseason en route to World Series championships in 1987 and 1991, but things haven't gone as well since.

They're 2-4 the last two years and have lost three home playoff games in a row, including Game 2 of last year's ALCS to the Angels. The Twins also dropped their first elimination game at the Metrodome on Sunday after going unbeaten in the previous five.

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Yankees Manager Joe Torre gave his players today off because the American League championship series won't start until Wednesday.

"These guys are working hard," Torre said. "Again, when you play postseason games ... physically, you get banged up. But the mental stuff is probably why you need a day off more than anything else."

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