Twins 5, Orioles 1
Johan Santana just keeps getting better, progressing deeper into his personal zone of pitching dominance.
Santana won his 11th straight start with another stellar performance, striking out a career high 14 in eight scoreless innings for the Minnesota Twins in a 5-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday.
By winning his 12th consecutive decision, Santana (19-6) tied a Twins record set by Scott Erickson in 1991 and matched by Brad Radke in 1997.
"When he's out there, it's unbelievable," Radke said.
Santana struck out five of his last six batters, jubilantly jumping off the mound after Tim Raines Jr. went down swinging to end the eighth. He allowed seven hits and didn't walk a batter, extending his scoreless inning streak to 30.
"That's amazing, man," catcher Henry Blanco said.
Michael Restovich hit a two-run homer, and Luis Rivas and Blanco each had solo shots for the Twins, who can clinch their third straight AL Central title with a victory over the White Sox on Monday in Chicago.
"I'm just doing my job," Santana said. "I'm happy to be in this situation."
Bruce Chen (1-1) , also a left-hander, kept up for a while, but four of the six hits he allowed were homers -- by Rivas in the third, Blanco in the sixth and Restovich in the seventh.
"There was nothing I could do," Chen said. "I tried to keep up with him, but he outpitched me."
Chen, a veteran of nine organizations and eight major league teams, was coming off his first career complete game -- a five-hit, one-run performance in a win at Toronto on Monday. Chen struck out seven and walked one in seven innings. In five starts since being recalled from the minors, he has a 2.45 ERA.
Baltimore had its chances. Raines hit a one-out double in the first, but was thrown out at third on perfect throws by center fielder Lew Ford and shortstop Cristian Guzman.
Miguel Tejada -- the only Orioles starter who didn't strike out -- led off the second with an infield single, but was erased when B.J. Surhoff grounded into a double play. Larry Bigbie singled with one out in the third, but Santana struck out Brian Roberts and Raines to end the threat.
"With a guy like him, there is no plan," Tejada said. "You just try to touch the ball. He can get you out on any pitch."
Santana, who struck out the last batter in seven of his eight innings, had the crowd of 31,399 standing and cheering during several at-bats. Joe Nathan was booed, albeit good-naturedly, when he came out for the ninth instead of Santana -- whose 217 innings are nearly 60 more than his previous career high.
Santana threw 103 pitches, 78 for strikes.
"His changeup was good, his slider was nasty and his fastball was absolutely as good as I've seen it," Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire said.
This was Santana's 12th start with 10 or more strikeouts this year and the 15th of his career. He is four behind Bert Blyleven's club record of 258, set in 1973. Santana leads the AL in strikeouts and ERA (2.65), and with two starts left he trails Boston's Curt Schilling by one in victories.