Santana Ends Regular Season With A Win

Santana could win the pitching Triple Crown.

In this edition of Inside The Dugout, Santana earns his 19th win in his last start of the regular season. As of Wednesday, the left-hander leads the league in wins, earned run average, and strikeouts, making him the front-runner for the American League Cy Young.

Bring on the Yankees. Or maybe the A's.

Either way, Johan Santana appears ready for Game 1 of the playoffs after Tuesday's victory over Kansas City in his final start of the regular season -- with what might be his second Cy Young Award in three years likely tucked neatly behind the Triple Crown numbers of another dominating season.

He now gets a week off to prepare for his playoff-opening start next Tuesday, either at Yankee Stadium or at home against Oakland -- depending on whether the Twins overtake Detroit or go to the playoffs as the wild card.

He finishes the regular season with the major league lead -- so far -- in wins (19), earned run average (2.77) and strikeouts (245).

No pitcher has finished with the league lead in all three Triple Crown pitching categories and failed to win a Cy Young Award since it was first handed out in 1956.

"We're not done yet," Santana (19-6). "We've got to get ready. Myself, I have to get ready for the playoffs, but we're not done this year."

REPLAY: Luis Rodriguez hit a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth inning for the game-winning run as the Twins came from behind to beat the Royals 3-2 at the Metrodome and keep alive their hopes of overtaking Detroit for the AL Central championship.

The Twins, who trail the Tigers by one game with five left, must win the division outright to be declared champions. Because both teams qualify for postseason, a tiebreaker won't be played, and the Tigers beat the Twins in 11 of 19 meetings this year.

Johan Santana (19-6), the Cy Young favorite in the AL, pitched eight strong innings -- retiring 17 of the final 19 batters he faced to earn the victory in his final start of the regular season.

NOTES, QUOTES:

  • RHP Brad Radke (12-9) is scheduled to make his first start since Aug. 25 on Thursday as he tries to come back strong enough from a stress fracture in his shoulder socket to prepare for the playoffs.

  • Manager Ron Gardenhire listed his playoff rotation, at least tentatively: Game 1 will be started by LHP Johan Santana (19-6), followed by RHP Boof Bonser (7-5), and then either RHP Brad Radke (12-9) or RHP Matt Garza (3-5) in Game 3. RHP Carlos Silva (10-14) likely would be the Game 4 starter. The plans could change somewhat depending on how RHP Brad Radke looks in his first start -- on Thursday -- since Aug. 25, as he attempts a comeback from a stress fracture in his shoulder socket.

  • C Joe Mauer, the major leagues' leading hitter (.349), got what figures to be his final day off of the regular season on Tuesday, the day after the Twins clinched a playoff berth. Manager Ron Gardenhire said he plans to bat Mauer as the DH either Friday or Saturday, but he's expected to play in all of the Twins' final five games.

  • LF/DH Rondell White got his second straight day off Tuesday because of tight hamstrings, but he could return to the lineup as early as Wednesday.

  • The Twins have won 14 of their past 18 games, including the past four straight.

  • The Twins finished the season 26-8 (.765) when LHP Johan Santana started this season -- and 68-55 (.553) when he didn't.

  • In his final start of the regular season, LHP Johan Santana extended his unbeaten streak at the Metrodome to 23 starts, dating back to Aug. 6 of last season. The Twins have won all of those 23 starts, during which Santana has gone 16-0.
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