Santana stalls Yankees in clutch, 2-0

Twins' record 5 double plays lift lefty to victory in series opener

AL Division Series

October 06, 2004|By Dom Amore | Dom Amore,HARTFORD COURANT

NEW YORK - The New York Yankees started another postseason the way they finished the last one: unable to get a clutch hit and frustrated by the hottest pitcher in the game.

The Minnesota Twins' Johan Santana stepped on the diamond that Josh Beckett called his own last Oct. 25 and accomplished a similar feat, shutting out the Yankees, 2-0, in Game 1 of the American League Division Series before 55,749 at Yankee Stadium last night.

The Twins send Brad Radke against Jon Lieber in Game 2 tonight.

Pitching, the Yankees' weakness coming into the series, was not the problem. Mike Mussina limited the Twins to seven hits and two runs in seven innings. But Shannon Stewart's RBI single in the third and Jacque Jones' home run in the sixth inning created the molehill that might as well have been Mount McKinley with Santana pitching.

"He pitched his heart out," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He was unbelievable tonight."

Where Beckett dominated the Yankees to clinch the World Series for the Marlins, Santana, a 20-game winner and likely Cy Young Award winner in the American League, performed more of a high-wire act in his seven innings.

But whenever the Yankees, who got nine hits off him, seemed close to a breakthrough, Santana got inside and induced a weakly hit grounder or fly. The Yankees hit or ran into four double plays during the first five innings (and five overall, a nine-inning postseason record), getting a runner thrown out at third base and another at the plate.

They went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position against Santana, who walked one, hit one and struck out five.

"I was able to throw the right pitch at the right time because I know my teammates can make some plays," Santana said. "Tonight we proved what the team, the Minnesota Twins, are all about."

Despite all their hits, the closest the Yankees came to scoring was on a foul ball, a high fly by Ruben Sierra in the seventh that was originally called a home run, but correctly reversed after an umpires' conference.

Juan Rincon started the eighth, and was saved when Twins center fielder Torii Hunter, who threw out Jorge Posada at the plate in the second inning, ranged back and above the wall in right-center to catch Alex Rodriguez's fly ball. Gary Sheffield walked, then Bernie Williams hit into their fifth double play.

"We had many opportunities," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "Santana probably didn't have his best stuff tonight, but when he needed to get a ground ball, he got it."

The Yankees mounted big threats against Santana in the first two innings, but ran their way out of both. Rodriguez singled and Sheffield walked with one out in the first, and Williams battled Santana through a long at-bat. But with the count full and the runners going, Williams took a called third strike and Rodriguez was thrown out easily at third base.

In the second, Posada singled inside the third base line, and Hideki Matsui lined a single up the middle. Sierra sent a long drive to left, but Shannon Stewart made a running catch at the wall. Posada advanced to third, but when he tried to score on John Olerud's fly to medium left-center, he was out at the plate on a great one-hop throw from Hunter.

The Twins built a run in the third. Michael Cuddyer singled to right-center, Henry Blanco bunted and Stewart, who hit .400 against the Yankees in the playoff last year, singled to left-center, his second hit, to score the run.

Williams led off the fourth with a single, the Yankees' fifth hit. But Posada bounced to short for another double play.

Santana hit Olerud to start the fifth, but Miguel Cairo, normally sound in the fundamentals, could not get a bunt down and ended up striking out. Then Derek Jeter hit into the fourth double play of the game.

Jones, whose father died during the weekend, returned from California just in time for the game and was inserted into the lineup despite his .091 lifetime average against Mussina.

With one out in the sixth, Jones hit an 0-1 pitch the other way into the left-field seats to give Minnesota a 2-0 lead. Releasing the pent-up emotions, Jones swung his fist in a wide arc as he rounded first.

Rodriguez and Posada singled in the sixth, but Matsui, 2-for-2, grounded out to end the inning.

The Hartford Courant is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Division Series

Yesterday's results

St. Louis 8, Los Angeles 3

Boston 9, Anaheim 3

Minnesota 2, N.Y. Yankees 0

(Coverage, Page 6C)

Today's games

Houston at Atlanta, 4:09 p.m., ESPN

Minnesota at N.Y. Yankees, 7:09 p.m., ESPN

Boston at Anaheim, 10:09 p.m., ESPN

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