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Santana flirts with no-no, Ks 11 as Twins edge Tigers

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The zeroes kept going up on the board, one
after another. Yet Johan Santana insists that he never once thought
about throwing a no-hitter on Sunday.

Santana and the Minnesota Twins are just focusing on wins after
a disastrous April.

Santana struck out 11 and carried a no-hitter into the seventh
inning of a 4-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers, helping the Twins
take two of three in the weekend series.

"I was just thinking about how important the win is," said
Santana, whose team is already nine games back of division-leading
Chicago in the AL Central. "We're trying to get closer in the
standings."

Santana (3-3) kept the Tigers off balance with a dazzling slider
and a changeup that had knees buckling up and down the order to
even his record after a rough April. He retired the first 13
batters before he walked Marcus Thames with one out in the fifth.

Santana hit a batter in the sixth and Ivan Rodriguez led off the
seventh with a single, ending his bid for the first no-hitter since
Randy Johnson threw a perfect game for the Arizona Diamondbacks
against Atlanta in 2004.

"That looked like a no-hitter day," Twins manager Ron
Gardenhire said of Santana's dominance in the early going. "It
really did. ... When Johan's going good, he has electric-type
stuff. He's capable of doing that anytime."

The home crowd gave him a standing ovation to salute the effort,
but the Tigers made things interesting after that.

Magglio Ordonez, who entered the game with a .421 career average
against Santana, followed with a two-run homer to cut the Minnesota
lead to 4-2 and Detroit had two more hits in the inning. But
Santana got out of the jam and yielded to Juan Rincon in the
eighth. Joe Nathan pitched the ninth for his fourth save in as many
opportunities.

Michael Cuddyer continued a strong May with two hits and two
RBI and Luis Castillo had two hits and a home run for the Twins,
who took two of three from the Tigers after being outscored 33-1 in
a three-game sweep in Detroit last weekend.

"It's good to win a series," Gardenhire said. "They handled
us pretty well at their place. ... To win two of three against this
team, which is very hot right now, it feels good."

Mike Maroth (4-2) had a rough day for the Tigers, allowing four
runs and nine hits in five innings.

That was more than enough for Santana, the former AL Cy Young
winner who got off to a slow start this season after pitching for
Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic. He was 0-3 in his first
four starts, but has bounced back with impressive outings in his
last three starts, all wins.

"Santana was unbelievable," Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge
said. "He is such a smart pitcher and he crushed us tonight. That
is the bottom line."

Maroth has been the ringleader of Detroit's suddenly potent
pitching staff. He entered the game with a 1.78 ERA and had allowed
more than one earned run in just one of his first five starts.

Cuddyer and the Twins got to him right away on Sunday.

With two on and two out in the first, Cuddyer belted a drive to
the gap in left-center field that Thames almost chased down. The
ball glanced off the tip of his glove for a triple that gave the
Twins a 2-0 lead.

Maroth threw 100 pitches in his five innings, while Santana
needed just 74 to get through six, thanks in large part to a
seven-pitch first inning and a 10-pitch sixth.

"I had too many runners on base," Maroth said. "I was behind
hitters. If (Santana) is on his game, you know runs could be few.
There were too many baserunners. I didn't have my control."

Santana also got some help from Torii Hunter in the fifth.
Ordonez ripped one to the gap in left-center, but the Gold Glover
raced over and made a lunging, backhanded snare to keep the
no-hitter alive.

"That's in my top three, if not number one," Hunter said.

Santana pumped his fist and hollered after seeing the catch, but
he started to labor in the seventh and the Tigers threatened to
spoil the show.

They had runners on second and third with one out before Santana
got Ramon Santiago to fly out to right and Omar Infante to strike
out to end the inning.

"I wished we played tomorrow," Detroit manager Jim Leyland
said. "We are playing well. We were two outs away from winning the
series. We are playing good."

Game notes
Tigers 2B Placido Polanco missed his third straight game
with a sore back. ... Chris Shelton singled in the seventh to snap
an 0-for-9 skid. ... It was Santana's 25th career double-digit
strikeout game and second of the season. ... Eric Milton was the
last Twin to throw a no-hitter, on Sept. 11, 1999, against the
Rangers.