Twins 8, Royals 1

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Johan Santana waited half the season to break into the Minnesota Twins’ starting rotation. And he’s pitching like he plans to stay there for a long time.

Santana struck out 10 batters for the second straight game, and the Minnesota Twins broke loose after an injury to Kevin Appier on Sunday for an 8-1 win over the Kansas City Royals, salvaging a split of their four-game series.

Minnesota, which does not play the Royals again this season, moved within 1 1/2 games of first-place Chicago in the AL Central, while Kansas City stayed a game back. The White Sox lost 5-0 to Texas.

Appier, one of three veteran starters the Royals have brought in to stabilize their rotation, left the game after two innings with tightness in his right elbow and will see a doctor in Kansas City on Tuesday.

Santana (8-3), who entered the starting rotation July 11, has become the Twins’ ace with a 1.25 ERA over five starts in August.

“I always do the things they ask me to do,” Santana said. “Now that I’m in the starting rotation, I want to stay there for the rest of my career.”

The 10 strikeouts tied his season high. He gave up six hits and two walks in six innings, but allowed only one run on Desi Relaford’s second-inning homer.

“I’m glad he wasn’t in the rotation the whole year,” the Royals’ Joe Randa said.

Santana got key strikeouts in the first, second and fifth innings with runners in scoring position to keep the Royals from doing further damage.

The Twins gave him plenty of support. Matthew LeCroy had three RBI singles, each scoring Shannon Stewart. Luis Rivas drove in a pair of runs and Torii Hunter homered.

“When he goes out there, you know he’s going to have a good performance,” Hunter said. “All we’ve got to do is get some runs for him.”

Minnesota’s offense got an early look at the Royals bullpen for the second game in a row when Appier left with the score tied 1-all.

“From the first throw of the game, I felt some discomfort,” Appier said.

But unlike Saturday, when D.J. Carrasco and Mike MacDougal shut out the Twins for five innings while the Royals rallied to win, Minnesota jumped on Graeme Lloyd (0-2) for three runs in the third.

Lloyd walked Stewart and Luis Rivas to lead off the inning. Both moved up on a double steal, and LeCroy singled home Stewart to put the Twins up 2-1.

“I thought my biggest hit was the first one,” LeCroy said. “With Santana as nasty as he’s been lately, I thought we should be fine.”

Rivas scored on Corey Koskie’s fly to center, taking advantage of Carlos Beltran’s sore elbow by scooting home ahead of a weak throw.

After Hunter walked, Jacque Jones singled in the third run to make it 4-1.

LeCroy delivered another RBI single in the fourth, and Rivas perfectly executed a suicide squeeze to score Cristian Guzman in the sixth.

Santana kept the Royals at bay, getting out of his biggest jams with strikeouts. After Relaford homered with one out in the second—snapping a 4-for-23 slump—Angel Berroa tripled. But Santana struck out Brent Mayne and Aaron Guiel to end the inning.

In the fifth, the Royals put runners at the corners with one out, but Santana struck out Mike Sweeney. He walked Carlos Beltran but got Raul Ibanez to pop out to short.

“I threw too many pitches today,” Santana said. “But at this time of year, it doesn’t matter. It’s about winning games.”

Hunter hit his 23rd homer of the season, a 434-foot shot off a hanging breaking ball from Appier, to tie the score 1-all in the second inning.

Appier, who entered the game 1-2 with a 4.24 ERA in three starts for Kansas City, gave up just the one run on one hit and two walks. He also threw a wild pitch.

The Royals won the season series 11-8 despite being outscored 98-81. Kansas City won seven of the eight one-run games between the teams.

“This race is going to come down to the last series of the season,” Guielsaid.


Santana is ninth in the American League in strikeouts with 139. His 58 strikeouts since the All-Star break are the most in the league. … The attendance was 34,265 Sunday and 138,327 for the four-game series. It was the largest crowd at the Metrodome for a four-game series since July 20-23, 2001, against Seattle. … Royals hitters struck out 14 times, with Guiel and Sweeneyfanning three times each.

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