Posted at 1:37 PM on June 20, 2007
by Steve Rudolph
We grown accustomed to watching Johan Santana mow through opposing lineups, saw the bats from hitters’ hands and shave points off his ERA each summer. It might be worth scalping a ticket to see him cut Bert Blyleven's locks before tonight’s game.
In case you missed it, on the bus ride to Shea Stadium, Blyleven challenged the two-time Cy Young award winner. Blyleven, who recorded 60 shutouts in his career, told Santana if he pitched a shutout against the Mets, he’d have his head shaved.
It seemed like a safe bet for Blyleven. Only one Twins pitcher had thrown a complete game shutout in nearly two years, Santana hadn’t recorded a shutout since 2005 and was winless in June. Not to mention, the Mets are capable of scoring some runs.
It appeared shutting out the Mets would be equivalent to Santana, the league leader in strikeouts the past three seasons, pitching eight innings without fanning a single batter.
Yet that’s what happened. Finally provided some run support with a five-spot in the second, Santana didn’t have to worry about making every pitch perfect and instead went after Mets hitters challenging them to put his pitches in play. And unlike the Mets fielders, Santana’s teammates made the plays behind him allowing the lefthander to clip through nine innings in just 92 pitches.
It will be interesting to see if Santana continues the aggressive approach the next time he takes the hill. I hope he does. Santana's at his best when he buckles down to get out of a jam, not when he's trying to strikeout every hitter. With the recent bullpen struggles, the Twins could benefit from Santana throwing eight or nine innings every few starts.
Hopefully Dick Bremer, Dan Gladden or John Gordon will keep the buzz going by making a similar offer to Scott Baker on today’s bus ride. Baker needs all the extra motivation he can get.