Jacque Jones hit a two-run home run and the Twins survived an
ugly start by Santana, last season's Cy Young winner, to beat the
Seattle Mariners 8-4 on Tuesday night."He's human, huh?" Jones asked. "Hey, it's going to happen."Not a problem for the Twins, who are targeting a fourth straight
AL Central title.Minnesota collected 14 hits on the night, batting around and
scoring seven runs in the fifth inning. Minnesota used seven
singles -- four off Mariners starter Gil Meche -- and Jones' shot
into the right-field stands for a 7-4 lead.It made a winner of Santana, who won 20 games and led the AL
with a 2.61 ERA last season but didn't look himself right away. He
was leaving the ball up early, and Seattle's aggressive hitters
took advantage for an early 4-0 lead."I have a lot of confidence in my teammates and what they can
do," Santana said. "I just tried to hang in there and give the
team a chance to win. That's how you do it."He fell behind quickly, after Adrian Beltre's two-run double,
Richie Sexson's RBI double and a one-out RBI single by Raul Ibanez.
Santana threw 29 pitches in the first and got only one out through
the first five batters."It's just a matter of establishing your pitches," Santana
said. "I didn't have that much time to do it because they were
swinging early. Second inning on, I started working everything,
breaking balls got going."Sure enough, he returned to his old form by retiring 14 of the
next 15 batters, with only Beltre getting a single in the third.
Santana worked five innings, allowing four runs on five hits with
six strikeouts and one walk.He won his 14th straight, a club record streak dating to July
17."I was just trying to get out of the first inning. It's always
the toughest inning of the game," Santana said. "We stayed with
it. We never quit. We played the game the right way."Santana had gone 22 straight starts allowing three runs or
fewer, the second longest stretch in history behind Dwight Gooden's
24 in 1985. He hadn't allowed more than three runs since a 5-2 loss
last June 3 at the Metrodome against Tampa Bay.Just when Santana got it turned around, so did the Minnesota
hitters.The Twins, who lost the opener 5-1 on Monday, had only seven
hits through the first 13 innings this season, then struck for
eight hits to generate seven runs in the fifth.Up to that point, Meche had done quite well. He had a two-hitter
through four innings, but then allowed singles to Lew Ford, Michael
Cuddyer and Luis Rivas to start the fifth. That loaded the bases
with no outs for the top of Minnesota's order.Shannon Stewart hit into a force at second but beat the throw at
first, scoring Ford to pull the Twins to 4-1. Jason Bartlett's RBI
single made it 4-2, and Meche was pulled for lefty Matt Thornton."Everything kind of came apart," Meche said. "A couple of
ground balls found holes. I left a couple balls up for them to get.
The pitch count got up there and the skipper thought that was
enough."Joe Mauer then started a perfectly executed hit-and-run, scoring
Stewart on an RBI single that darted into left field when shortstop
Wilson Valdez moved to cover second base.And if the Twins needed proof everything suddenly was going just
right, Justin Morneau tied it at 4 on a check-swing blooper that
soared into left field. Jones came up next, driving an 0-1 pitch
off Thornton over the wall in right."It doesn't matter how it gets done, as long as it gets done,"
said Jones, who added an RBI single in the seventh to make it 8-4.
"We're a team that can put together hits and run the bases. We did
that."Meche lasted 4 1-3 innings and gave up four runs on six hits
with four strikeouts and two walks.
Every Minnesota hitter had at least one single. ... An MRI
exam on Seattle SS Pokey Reese, on the 15-day DL, confirmed a
strained right shoulder. ... Twins RHP Jesse Crain was pulled
immediately after hitting Mariners 2B Bret Boone in the wrist with
a pitch. He logged only one out in the sixth. ... INF Ricky
Gutierrez was released by the Mariners. ... Seattle RHP Ryan
Franklin, a starter the past two seasons, worked the eighth in
relief for the first time since Aug. 27, 2002.