Twins: Ace has a hit, few misses

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 21, 2007 - 12:55 AM

Johan Santana enjoyed a super night at Shea, and that means a head shaving for Bert Blyleven.

NEW YORK - The challenge Bert Blyleven made to Johan Santana went something like this: Pitch a shutout, and I'll get my head shaved.

Oh, those silly TV analysts.

Viewers can expect a new hairstyle from the Twins color man tonight, after Santana went the distance Tuesday night in a 9-0 victory over the New York Mets at Shea Stadium.

"Believe me, it's going to happen," Santana said after his four-hitter. "I think he's trying to hide right now, but I definitely will look for him [today], and hopefully by game time, he will be bald."

Blyleven, whose 60 career shutouts rank ninth on baseball's career list, plans to make good on his promise today before batting practice. Fox Sports Net will show it during tonight's pregame show.

But Santana's fourth career shutout -- and first since Aug. 12, 2005, at Oakland -- won't just be remembered for the soon-to-be missing hair.

Two of Santana's recent staples were also missing: strikeouts and a high pitch count.

After scoring only three runs combined while Santana (7-6) was in the game during his previous three starts, the Twins scored five in the second inning against Jorge Sosa (6-3).

"Right there, [Santana] could relax and not try to be perfect on every pitch," Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson said.

Santana soon ditched the do-it-yourself mind-set that has made him the American League strikeout king for three years running. The Mets were extremely aggressive, and with a big lead, Santana felt confident to just let them hit it.

"I'll tell you what, he had some luck on his side because they were smoking some balls," Twins third baseman Jeff Cirillo said.

The Mets lined into several outs and hit several more to the deep reaches of Shea's outfield.

For the first time in 115 starts, Santana finished with only one strikeout. And that didn't come until Paul Lo Duca flailed at a changeup in the ninth.

Santana had struck out two or more batters in every start since he fanned one in a four-inning, 62-pitch start on April 6, 2004.

"I wasn't even trying to strike anybody out," he said. "I'll trade my strikeouts for all those kind of outs right there. It's quicker and much easier because you don't have to throw that many pitches."

Santana needed only 92 pitches to finish the sixth complete game of his career.

Good thing he conserved energy because he had the rare chance to hit in a National League ballpark. Santana drew his first career walk (second inning) and first career extra-base hit (a fifth-inning double) among his five plate appearances. None of that interrupted his mastery on the mound.

"Once we got a lead, you saw what he can do," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

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