Minnesota ace again strikes out 10


MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Johan Santana waited half the season to break
into the Minnesota Twins' starting rotation. And he's pitching like
he plans to stay there for a long time.

Santana struck out 10 batters for the second straight game, and
the Minnesota Twins broke loose after an injury to Kevin Appier on
Sunday for an 8-1 win over the Kansas City Royals, salvaging a
split of their four-game series.

Minnesota, which does not play the Royals again this season,
moved within 1{ games of first-place Chicago in the AL Central,
while Kansas City stayed a game back. The White Sox lost 5-0 to

Appier, one of three veteran starters the Royals have brought in
to stabilize their rotation, left the game after two innings with
tightness in his right elbow and will see a doctor in Kansas City
on Tuesday.

Santana (8-3), who entered the starting rotation July 11, has
become the Twins' ace with a 1.25 ERA over five starts in August.

"I always do the things they ask me to do," Santana said.
"Now that I'm in the starting rotation, I want to stay there for
the rest of my career."

The 10 strikeouts tied his season high. He gave up six hits and
two walks in six innings, but allowed only one run on Desi
Relaford's second-inning homer.

"I'm glad he wasn't in the rotation the whole year," the
Royals' Joe Randa said.

Santana got key strikeouts in the first, second and fifth
innings with runners in scoring position to keep the Royals from
doing further damage.

The Twins gave him plenty of support. Matthew LeCroy had three
RBI singles, each scoring Shannon Stewart. Luis Rivas drove in a
pair of runs and Torii Hunter homered.

"When he goes out there, you know he's going to have a good
performance," Hunter said. "All we've got to do is get some runs
for him."

Minnesota's offense got an early look at the Royals bullpen for
the second game in a row when Appier left with the score tied

"From the first throw of the game, I felt some discomfort,"
Appier said.

But unlike Saturday, when D.J. Carrasco and Mike MacDougal shut
out the Twins for five innings while the Royals rallied to win,
Minnesota jumped on Graeme Lloyd (0-2) for three runs in the third.

Lloyd walked Stewart and Luis Rivas to lead off the inning. Both
moved up on a double steal, and LeCroy singled home Stewart to put
the Twins up 2-1.

"I thought my biggest hit was the first one," LeCroy said.
"With Santana as nasty as he's been lately, I thought we should be

Rivas scored on Corey Koskie's fly to center, taking advantage
of Carlos Beltran's sore elbow by scooting home ahead of a weak

After Hunter walked, Jacque Jones singled in the third run to
make it 4-1.

LeCroy delivered another RBI single in the fourth, and Rivas
perfectly executed a suicide squeeze to score Cristian Guzman in
the sixth.

Santana kept the Royals at bay, getting out of his biggest jams
with strikeouts. After Relaford homered with one out in the second
-- snapping a 4-for-23 slump -- Angel Berroa tripled. But Santana
struck out Brent Mayne and Aaron Guiel to end the inning.

In the fifth, the Royals put runners at the corners with one
out, but Santana struck out Mike Sweeney. He walked Carlos Beltran
but got Raul Ibanez to pop out to short.

"I threw too many pitches today," Santana said. "But at this
time of year, it doesn't matter. It's about winning games."

Hunter hit his 23rd homer of the season, a 434-foot shot off a
hanging breaking ball from Appier, to tie the score 1-all in the
second inning.

Appier, who entered the game 1-2 with a 4.24 ERA in three starts
for Kansas City, gave up just the one run on one hit and two walks.
He also threw a wild pitch.

The Royals won the season series 11-8 despite being outscored
98-81. Kansas City won seven of the eight one-run games between the

"This race is going to come down to the last series of the
season," Guiel said.

Game notes
Santana is ninth in the American League in strikeouts with
139. His 58 strikeouts since the All-Star break are the most in the
league. ... The attendance was 34,265 Sunday and 138,327 for the
four-game series. It was the largest crowd at the Metrodome for a
four-game series since July 20-23, 2001, against Seattle. ...
Royals hitters struck out 14 times, with Guiel and Sweeney fanning
three times each.