The three-time All-Star and two-time Cy Young Award winner struck out a career-high 17 batters and allowed just two hits over eight scoreless innings. He earned the win in a 1-0 victory over the Angels at the Metrodome.
Santana's start capped off a week in which he went 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 15 innings pitched. He also threw seven innings of three-run ball against the Mariners on Aug. 13. The two outings yielded the American League Bank of America Player of the Week Award, the third time Santana has earned the honor in his career.
Sunday, though, Santana achieved a feat he -- or any Minnesota pitcher -- had never reached. His 17 strikeouts broke the team record of 15.
"The way he pitched today, he could have gotten 17 strikeouts against any club ... including the 1927 Yankees," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.
According to Bill James' Game Score statistic, Santana's game ranked as the third-best pitched game in baseball this season -- trailing Erik Bedard's 15-strikeout shutout on July 7 and Justin Verlander's no-hitter.
"What a performance," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "That was special. It's just like he said to me, 'Sometimes it happens.' Well, it happened."
Santana, 13-9 with a 2.88 ERA this season, relied exclusively on his fastball and devastating changeup. He threw only four sliders the entire game, but coaxed an incredible 33 missed swings among his 112 pitches.
Santana started his day with five Ks in the first two innings.
"I walked off the field after the second and said, 'This could be it. This guy's got some amazing stuff today,'" Redmond told reporters.
Sammy Sosa eventually ended the no-hit bid with a fifth-inning single, but Santana kept cruising. He collected 11 strikeouts after five innings.
"[Santana] was great," Young said. "That's as good as I've seen his changeup, and that's saying something. Johan always has a chance to be good. He's the best pitcher in the game for a reason. Once he gets going full steam, it's tough to break it up."
Santana didn't strike out anyone in the sixth -- the left-hander's only inning without fanning someone -- but struck out the side in the seventh and eighth.
"I was left in awe today," Torii Hunter said. "He seldom missed. Most of those guys were down, 0-2, before you know it. Johan was pretty impressive today. I was glad to be a part of that. I'd never seen that before, not even in Little League."
The volume and fan support inside the Metrodome increased with every strikeout. After the eighth, Santana exited to a standing ovation. He could have come back out for the ninth, but Santana tipped his cap to the crowd -- a sign his day was finished. He fell three short of tying the Major League record.
"I felt good, but at the same time, we knew that in that game situation, Nathan would be the right guy to go back out there and shut everything out," Santana said. "He's one of the best closers in the game and I trust him."
Nathan contained the Rangers -- and preserved Santana's gem.
Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less