Twins 4, Royals 0

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Johan Santana’s pitch count was over 100 through eight innings, and Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire was nervous.

Santana sweet-talked his boss into letting him complete a game for the first time in his major league career.

The left-hander pitched a three-hitter and tied his high with 13 strikeouts, leading the Twins past the Kansas City Royals 4-0 Tuesday night.

“That was one of the greatest feelings ever,” Santana said.

Torii Hunter homered in the second for Minnesota, and Kansas City lost for the 12th time in 13 games—including a season-high seven straight defeats. The Royals have been blanked five times this year, including a 9-0 loss to the Twins’ Brad Radke on Monday.

Santana (7-5), making his 59th major league start, reached double-digit strikeouts for the fifth time in his last six outings. He walked two.

“Some days you feel so good you don’t want to come out,” said Santana, who has given up just 23 hits and eight runs while striking out 64 in his last 47 innings—spanning six starts.

Santana’s first season as a full-time member of the rotation started slowly, but he has found a groove just before the All-Star break. Lowering his ERA to 3.89, Santana located his fastball perfectly to set up his slider and devastating changeup.

“I’m glad I’m on his side,” Hunter said. “Maybe we can be teammates for a long time—lock him in.”

Kansas City rookie Zack Greinke (1-6) lost his fifth straight start, though he was again hurt by a lack of run support. The Royals have scored 18 runs in his nine starts and just eight runs in his six defeats.

“He felt like he had to make a perfect pitch every time,” manager Tony Pena said, “because we’re not scoring runs.”

The 20-year-old Greinke—taken sixth overall in the 2002 amateur draft— held the Twins to one run over seven innings on May 28. He was just as tough this time, until the sixth.

Cristian Guzman led off with a double and scored from third on a balk to put Minnesota up by two. Greinke retired the next two batters, but he walked Corey Koskie and gave up a double to Hunter.

Jacque Jones was walked intentionally, and Jose Offerman—in the starting lineup for the second time in 21 games—hit a two-run single to make it 4-0 after he missed an upper-deck grand slam by a few seats.

Greinke gave up five hits, four runs and three walks in 5 2-3 innings while striking out five.

“He can really pitch,” Gardenhire said. “Reminds us a lot of Radke.”

The balk was his only big mistake.

“Before I moved my back foot, I moved front foot,” Greinke said. “I don’t know how it happened or why it happened.”

Said Pena: “He was throwing the ball well at that point. He must have lost his concentration.”

The Royals looked listless all over the field, not just in the batter’s box against Santana. Dee Brown began the fifth with Kansas City’s third leadoff single, but he was caught too far off first base on a pickoff throw by Santana and tagged out after a lengthy rundown.

In the bottom of the inning, left fielder Desi Relaford overran a lazy foul ball hit by Jones and let it drop. Jones eventually drew a walk, but he didn’t score.

Pena’s animated postgame lecture was audible in the hall outside the clubhouse, and he later repeated to reporters his plea for a better effort— despite a season that’s quickly disintegrating. The Royals are 1-9 since trading star center fielder Carlos Beltran.

“We have to go out and play with what we have,” Pena said. “Everybody on the ballclub—they’re professional ballplayers. That’s what I told them afterthe game—that they have to play like professionals.”

Notes

Twins LF Shannon Stewart, out since May 18 with plantar fasciitis in his right foot, ran the bases before the game for the first time since his injury—though not at full speed. There’s still no timetable on his return. … Royals 1B Mike Sweeney took batting practice, but he missed his fifth straight game with a stiff back. … Minnesota’s Matthew LeCroy was excused for travel to his native South Carolina to witness the birth of a daughter he andhis wife, Holly, are adopting. LeCroy is expected back Wednesday.

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