Santana first to 17 wins; Twins increase wild-card lead

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- Johan Santana was so dominant, even the guy who managed the Devil Rays' only two hits off him had to feel lucky.

"The ball happened to find my bat and find a hole," Delmon Young said.

Santana became the first 17-game winner in the major leagues Tuesday night, allowing two hits over eight scoreless innings as Minnesota beat Tampa Bay 8-0 -- the Twins' 14th win in a row over the Devil Rays.

"Games start with your pitching and he was really getting after it pretty good tonight," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He had great stuff, and I think you saw that according to some of the swings."

Santana (17-5) struck out 12 and walked one. The left-hander, 8-0 since the All-Star break, retired his first 10 hitters before a double with one out in the fourth by Young. Santana then got eight straight outs before Young singled to lead off the seventh.

The only other batter to reach was B.J. Upton, who drew a two-out walk in the eighth.

"He had everything working tonight," Young said. "You can tell by the swings we were taking. He's one of the best pitchers in the game because he's attacking the strike zone. He's got two great off-speed pitches."

Santana recorded 10 or more strikeouts in eight games this season and 31 times in his career. The Twins decided to pull Santana because of some minor left hip stiffness.

"In all those long innings [when the Twins scored], it's not easy to stay loose," Santana said. "I get everything going, I feel fine, but between innings it was there. I wanted to [finish the game], but at the same time we still have some games to go and I have to pitch on Sunday."

The Devil Rays' last win against Minnesota came June 3, 2004, when they beat Santana.

"He was very impressive today," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "I've seen him good, but that's almost as good as I've seen him."

Minnesota took a 1½ game lead in the AL wild-card race over the Chicago White Sox, who lost 1-0 to Boston on Tuesday night. The Red Sox remained six games behind.

The Twins also crept within four games of AL Central-leading Detroit after the Tigers lost to Seattle, 4-3.

"We're trying to take care of our own business," Gardenhire said. "You scoreboard-watch after the fact, but we've just got to take care of our own business, we know that. If we keep winning baseball games and you've got a lead, they can't catch you."

Jason Tyner had an RBI double and Jason Bartlett hit a sacrifice fly off Jae Seo (1-6) during a three-run fourth that put the Twins ahead 3-0.

Seo, reinstated from the 15-day disabled list before the game, gave up three runs and eight hits in six innings. He had been out since straining his left groin on Aug. 20.

Michael Cuddyer hit an RBI double and Justin Morneau had a run-scoring triple in a three-run seventh to make it 6-0.

Gardenhire was ejected for arguing that Cuddyer's hit was actually a homer. TV replays that the ball might have cleared the yellow line on the left-field fence before rebounding onto the playing field.

Garndehire has been tossed eight times this season.

Twins catcher Joe Mauer went 1-for-4, including a two-run double in the eighth and had his average drop one point to .345. He has three hits in his last 26 at-bats.

Game notes
Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano (left elbow strain) is scheduled to throw two or three innings in a simulated game Wednesday. He could make a minor-league rehab start as soon as Saturday and might rejoin the rotation next week. ... Tampa Bay left-hander Scott Kazmir (sore left shoulder) said his rehab is going "fantastic" and hopes to resume playing catch soon. It hasn't been decided if he will pitch again this season. ... Gardenhire said it is way too early to discuss a potential playoff rotation. "I will go out on a limb and say Santana would be the first guy out there," Gardenhire said with a smile. ... The seven shutouts in the major leagues on Tuesday are the most in one day since June 4, 1972, when there were eight. The eight shutouts that day are the most in one day in major-league history.