Santana wins 17th game

BALTIMORE (AP) -- Staked with a 7-0 lead and feeling raindrops on
the bill of his cap, Johan Santana became intent upon beating the
weather -- along with the Baltimore Orioles.

He succeeded at both.

Santana pitched seven innings of five-hit ball for his 10th
straight victory, and Matt LeCroy homered in a seven-run second
inning that provided the Minnesota Twins an early cushion in a 9-0
rout Wednesday night.

Santana (17-6) struck out nine and walked none before leaving
with a 9-0 lead. He is unbeaten in 11 starts since July 11 and has
a 1.38 ERA since the All-Star break.

The Orioles sold 19,358 tickets for the game, but because rain
swept through the area during the day and continued into the early
evening, only a few thousand fans were on hand to watch Santana
turn in another masterful performance.

After the Twins took control in the second, the left-hander was
virtually assured the win -- barring a rainout.

"I was trying to work quick, because in the third inning I saw
a little rain coming and I don't want the game to stay like that
and be gone, and not get a chance to win," he said.

The shower quickly subsided, but Santana never let up. He did
not allow a runner past second base and had at least one strikeout
in the second through seventh innings.

"He has an excellent changeup, great fastball, good slider.
That's a pretty good combination," Baltimore's David Segui said.
"That's one of best lefties I've ever faced. His changeup -- even
if you sit on it and get it -- the action on it is pretty

Segui and Miguel Tejada both had two hits for the Orioles, who
didn't have a baserunner until the fifth inning.

"It's not like I scalded the ball or anything," Segui said.

Santana got more than enough offensive support from his
teammates, who reached double figures in hits (12) for the first
time in seven games. Justin Morneau and Torii Hunter had three hits
apiece, and LeCroy drove in three runs for the Twins, headed to
their third straight AL Central title.

"It was good to get the bats going again because we've been a
little quiet lately," LeCroy said. "We need to start scoring some
runs down the stretch."

The Twins sent 10 batters to the plate in the second inning,
scoring six unearned runs following an error by third baseman
Melvin Mora. After Henry Blanco hit a sacrifice fly, Mora dropped a
liner off the bat of Shannon Stewart. Lew Ford followed with a
sacrifice fly, Hunter hit an RBI single and Morneau doubled in two
runs before LeCroy homered.

"We had a big inning, which we needed because we haven't been
scoring many runs," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "That
was kind of fun for us to get a lead and then hope that the rain
didn't bite us."

Orioles starter Erik Bedard (6-10) threw 50 pitches in the
inning and did not return.

"He has the stuff to put them away, but then you get to the
point where it's 20-25 pitches an inning. That's kind of taxing on
you," Baltimore manager Lee Mazzilli said.

Santana, in contrast, made quick work of the Orioles. He retired
the first 12 batters, striking out five, before Tejada led off the
fifth with a single to left. After Segui hit a one-out single, Jay
Gibbons followed with a fly to center and Jose Leon struck out.

Santana's changeup continually baffled the Orioles, who were
blanked for the 11th time this season. Baltimore scored only five
runs in dropping two of three to Minnesota.

"(Brad) Radke threw darn near as well yesterday, too," Segui
said. "They've got some good pitching over there."

LeCroy and Mike Cuddyer hit RBI singles in the seventh against
Aaron Rakers, making his major league debut.

Game notes
Since June 9, Santana is 15-2 with a 1.49 ERA. ... Bedard
has one win in his last six starts. ... J.D. Durbin made his major
league debut for Minnesota, allowing one hit in the ninth.