White Sox drop seventh of their last nine

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- With the Chicago White Sox struggling to hold
on to their lead in the AL Central, the last pitcher they wanted to
face was Johan Santana.

Santana struck out 13 in eight-plus innings Saturday to lead the
Minnesota Twins to a 5-0 victory over the White Sox, who have lost
seven of their last nine games.

The left-hander received a standing ovation from the crowd of
24,866 when he left with the bases loaded and none out in the ninth

"That means you're doing something good and the fans are
enjoying what they're watching," Santana said. "So it's always
good to make people happy ... I don't think there can be any better
feeling than that."

Santana (14-7) has struck out 10 or more in eight starts this
season and he leads the major leagues with 220 strikeouts. He
allowed four hits and walked two.

"He's always good. Today he was off the charts," Chicago's
Paul Konerko said. "That's the best I've seen from him, which is
saying something."

Justin Morneau hit his career-high 20th homer, and Michael
Cuddyer also homered.

Santana yielded only two hits going into the ninth -- Aaron
Rowand's bloop single in the fifth and Juan Uribe's double in the
eighth. But he loaded the bases in the ninth and was relieved by
Joe Nathan, who struck out three for his 38th save.

Santana continued his dominance against the White Sox. In his
last six starts against them, he is 6-0 with a 0.81 ERA and 54
strikeouts in 44 1/3 innings.

"I'm a little biased, but I think he's the best," Twins
manager Ron Gardenhire said. "There's other guys that have better
numbers ... but to me, it doesn't get much better than Johan in
this league. Not much better than him."

First-place Chicago led Cleveland in the AL Central by 4½ games
entering Saturday.

The White Sox had a 9½-game lead on Sept. 7 and were 15 games up
on Aug. 1. No major league team has blown a lead that big over the
next closest competitor, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The
Brooklyn Dodgers failed to make the playoffs in 1951 after holding
a 13-game lead on Aug. 11 of that year.

The Boston Red Sox coughed up a 14-game lead to the Yankees in
1978, but New York was not in second place at the time it faced
that deficit.

Santana was making his start three days later than scheduled
because of a split fingernail and blister on his left middle
finger. Santana, last year's AL Cy Young Award winner, is 7-2 with
a 1.69 ERA since the All-Star break.

Gardenhire believes Santana deserves Cy Young consideration this
season, too.

"I'm sure he'll get votes," Gardenhire said. "If he doesn't
get votes, then the wrong people are voting."

Orlando Hernandez (9-9) labored through 3 2/3 innings, allowing
four runs and eight hits. He threw 102 pitches and has lost six of
his past seven decisions. In his last two starts, the right-hander
is 0-2 with a 12.72 ERA.

"It's a bad time for me right now," Hernandez said. "I don't
have answers."

Following the game, manager Ozzie Guillen said the White Sox
would evaluate Hernandez's status in the rotation when they
returned to Chicago after this weekend's series.

Rookie Brandon McCarthy, who gave up one run in three innings of
relief Saturday, would be Hernandez's replacement.

"It's a tough situation to be in," said McCarthy, who has made
seven starts this season. "I certainly don't wish anything against
him. If it stays the way it is, I just have to be ready when called

The Twins scored the only runs they would need in the fourth
inning when they got four off Hernandez and sent 10 men to the
plate. Morneau connected for a two-run blast to center field, and
Jason Tyner hit a two-run triple. Cuddyer added a solo homer, his
10th of the season, in the seventh off McCarthy.

The game started at 11:10 a.m. local time because the Metrodome
field had to be converted for the University of Minnesota's
football game at night game against Florida Atlantic.

Game notes
The Twins improved to 15-6 in games at the Metrodome that
have started before noon. ... Santana fielded Pablo Uzuna's
grounder and made a diving tag to retire him in the sixth. ...
Konerko went 0-for-3 with a walk and is 2-for-21 since moving to
the third spot in the batting order.