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Santana wins 16th straight decision

CLEVELAND (AP) -- Johan Santana wasn't quite himself. He didn't
have his typical fastball, curve or changeup. For one of the rare
times in the past year, Minnesota's ace actually looked like he
could be beaten.

But as usual, he wasn't.

Santana won his 16th straight decision, pitching six strong
innings as the Twins won their fifth straight, 3-2 over the
Cleveland Indians on Friday night.

The 2004 AL Cy Young Award winner, Santana (3-0) remained
unbeaten since July 11 of last season, a stretch of 20 starts that
included two postseason outings against New York. He allowed two
runs and six hits.

"Good pitchers find a way to win," Twins manager Ron
Gardenhire said, "and that's what he did."

In improving to 5-0 in his career against Cleveland and
outdueling Jake Westbrook (0-3), Santana became the first pitcher
to win 16 straight decisions since Roger Clemens, who did it for
the Yankees in 2001.

Santana settled down after allowing two runs -- on solo homers to
Victor Martinez and Ryan Ludwick -- in the second inning. The
left-hander walked none and struck out 10 before turning it over to
Minnesota's bullpen in the seventh.

Of all the mind-boggling numbers Santana has posted in the past
year, one stands out: He's 21-2 in his last 25 starts. Although he
gets little publicity playing for the mid-market Twins, there's no
debate that he's the AL's best pitcher.

"I know he's got some long streak going where he hasn't lost a
game," Ludwick said. "He won the Cy Young last season, that says
he's pretty good. He left a couple pitches up to Vic and me but
then he turned himself around. The guy's a good pitcher."

Santana didn't win his third game until mid-May last season and
then reeled off 18 more. Although he's way ahead of that pace,
Santana isn't trying to duplicate what he did in '04.

"Last year was last year," he said. "This is the beginning of
2005. It's a new year."

Santana was reminded that he said his only goal this season was
improving last year's 20-6 record to 21-6. Well, what about going
34-0?

"No, 35-0, man," he joked.

J.C. Romero worked the seventh inning, Juan Rincon pitched the
eighth and Joe Nathan finished for his third save. The Minnesota
trio hasn't allowed an earned run in 16 1-3 innings this season.

The Twins made two nice defensive plays behind Nathan in the
ninth. Shannon Stewart ran down a shot to the left-field corner
before third baseman Juan Castro, a late-inning defensive
replacement, nabbed Jhonny Peralta's bad-hop grounder.

"I don't think I've seen one better," Gardenhire said. "The
ball took a bad hop right at his lips. I don't know how he did
it."

Westbrook had his second tough loss this season, allowing just
one earned run and three hits in eight innings. But it was the
right-hander's throwing error in the second inning that helped do
him in.

Westbrook retired the final 14 batters he faced, but lost his
second one-run game this season.

For the first time in 10 games, the Twins scored first, taking a
2-0 lead with a pair of unearned runs in the second.

LeCroy walked leading off and Westbrook got Torii Hunter to hit
an easy comebacker that should have been a routine double play.
However, the right-hander threw wildly into center field, putting
runners at first and second and Terry Tiffee brought them in with a
two-out, two-run single.

"I screwed up," Westbrook said. "I made a terrible throw.
That definitely cost us."

Game notes
The Indians have made an error in each of their first 10
games, and lead the majors with 13 miscues. ... Santana has reached
double-digits in strikeouts 16 times in 78 career starts. ...
Indians OF Juan Gonzalez still hasn't been able to play in a game
at extended spring training and manager Eric Wedge has no idea when
he might take the field. ... Gardenhire made DH Jacques Jones
promise he would stay in the clubhouse and not the dugout during
the game. "He wears me out," Gardenhire joked. "He walks by me
on the bench and chants, 'Let him play, let him play." ... The
Indians are 2-5 in one-run games.