NEW YORK (AP) – Johan Santana swept the Cy Young ballot the same way he buzzed through batters all season.

Santana won the AL Cy Young Award on Thursday for the second time in three years, and the Minnesota Twins’ ace was a unanimous choice once again.

“This year, I wouldn’t say it was easier, but you definitely have a better idea where you are,” he said. “I definitely feel more comfortable.”

Santana received all 28 first-place votes for a perfect total of 140 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Chien-Ming Wang of the New York Yankees finished a distant second with 15 second-place votes and 51 points. Toronto’s Roy Halladay was third with 48 points.

“This was not such a big surprise as in 2004,” Santana said at a news conference at home in Venezuela.

Still, the announcement set off another wild celebration in his baseball-crazy country.

“I can’t describe what’s going on here. People here love the game, they follow the game, they know everything we do,” Santana said. “Today, we made a lot of people happy.” The left-hander separated himself from all others during a dominant season, going 19-6 with a 2.77 ERA and 245 strikeouts to propel Minnesota from a poor start to the AL Central title.

With a baffling changeup and excellent control, he tied Wang for most wins in the majors and led the AL in ERA, strikeouts and innings pitched (233 2-3).

Forget the Triple Crown – it was the pitching version of a Quadruple Crown.

“I was trying to show people that what happened in 2004 wasn’t a fluke,” Santana said.

And here’s a scary thought: At 27, he thinks he can become even more effective, because there’s more to learn.

“In the future, I want to be consistent from Day 1. We’re still making adjustments,” Santana said. “I still believe that I can be better.”

Santana also was a unanimous winner in 2004, when he was 20-6 with a 2.61 ERA and 265 strikeouts. He is the fifth pitcher to win the Cy Young Award unanimously at least twice, joining Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax, who did it three times.

The award was established 50 years ago, and there was only one selection from both leagues from 1956-66.

“It’s definitely an honor to be compared to those guys,” Santana said.

“Pedro is one of my heroes as a pitcher.”

Arizona’s Brandon Webb won the NL Cy Young Award on Tuesday.

Thanks to his huge season on the mound, Santana could be a contender for another trophy, too. But he has much stiffer competition for AL MVP, which will be announced next Tuesday.

No pitcher has won an MVP award since Oakland closer Dennis Eckersley in 1992. The last starter to win was Clemens for Boston in ’86.

“I don’t talk. I just let what I do talk for myself,” Santana said.

For what it’s worth, he would pick Twins teammate Justin Morneau for MVP.

“I pitch every five days. He played every day. He helped the team every day,” Santana said. “There’s a lot of things that are involved, but I think the MVP has to go to a player that helps his team every single day.

“What he did was unbelievable. And he did it on a regular basis. All the numbers are there,” the pitcher added. “It would be great if that MVP would stay with the Minnesota Twins.”

For winning the Cy Young Award, Santana receives a $100,000 bonus.

Wang was the second consecutive runner-up from the Yankees. Star closer Mariano Rivera finished second to Bartolo Colon of the Los Angeles Angels last year.

The only other Twins pitchers to win were Frank Viola in 1988 and Jim Perry in 1970.

“This is a matter of pride and happiness for me, my country, my family and the Minnesota Twins,” Santana said. “The only downside is that I couldn’t take our team to the World Series.”

Associated Press Writer Daila Natera in Merida, Venezuela, contributed to this report.

AP-ES-11-16-06 1837EST

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