Tigers 2, Twins 0

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—The Detroit Tigers punctuated a feel-good first half by winning five of their last six games.

What a difference a year can make.

Jason Johnson pitched a five-hitter for his first career shutout, striking out a personal-best 11 and leading the Tigers to a 2-0 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Sunday.

Detroit, which went 43-119 in 2003, improved to 42-45 after winning two of three from the Yankees in New York and taking three of four from the Twins.

“It was a big game for us,” Johnson said.

Eric Munson hit a two-run homer in the second inning, the only mistake by Minnesota’s Johan Santana, who reached double-digit strikeouts for the fifth straight start.

“For us to win a series in New York and to win this series is huge, because we could have had a real big letdown on this road trip,” Munson said. “Now we can take a few days off and feel good about ourselves.”

Monday’s loss to New York was the fifth in a row for the Tigers, but they bounced back against two first-place teams and head into the All-Star break with confidence.

“I couldn’t be happier for everybody,” manager Alan Trammell said.

The Twins started the week with four wins behind some stellar starting pitching, including a club-record streak of 32 scoreless innings. They had a sluggish weekend at the plate, though, and head to the All-Star break with three straight losses.

They left 25 men on base in those games and fell a half-game behind Chicago in the division race after the White Sox beat Seattle. Detroit is tied for third place with Cleveland, 5 1/2 games back.

“Right now, we’re going through a little tough time,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Our pitchers have been throwing the ball fine. We just have to start scoring some runs.”

Johnson (7-7) threw 119 pitches—84 for strikes—and walked one in his fourth career complete game. In his last outing, Johnson held the Yankees to a run over eight innings.

“He was dealing,” Trammell said. “His stuff was outstanding all day.”

So was Santana (7-6), who fanned 11 in eight innings and allowed just two hits and two walks. He retired his last 18 batters after bobbling a grounder by Omar Infante for an error in the third inning.

“I did my best,” Santana said. “That’s the way this game is.”

The Tigers took a 2-0 lead in the second after twice being thrown out trying to score.

Marcus Thames hit a double that Lew Ford misplayed, but the left fielder made a perfect throw to third baseman Corey Koskie, who fired home. Rookie catcher Joe Mauer blocked the plate with his left foot and tagged Rondell White as he slid in.

Thames was running on contact when Mike DiFelice hit a chopper to third, and Koskie again threw home to Mauer for an out. But Munson crushed an 0-1 fastball that sailed over the tall blue curtain in right field.

The long ball remains a problem for Santana, who has allowed a team-high 18 home runs that account for 34 of his 52 earned runs.

Johnson’s season statistics would be pretty decent if not for two terrible April starts against the Twins in which he gave up 12 earned runs in 7 1-3 innings. He is 3-0 in his last five starts, pitching into the eighth in each of those.

Johnson struck out everyone in the lineup at least once, except Mauer and Jose Offerman, and lowered his ERA to 4.24.

“Everything was working, and I had great defense behind me,” Johnson said. “When I work faster, I’ve got better control.”

The Twins scored only five runs in these last three games.

“I guess this is a good time to have a break,” Gardenhire said.


Munson was hitless in seven previous at-bats against Santana. … This was Detroit’s last trip of the year to Minnesota. The Tigers play a four-game series against the Twins at home in September. … Detroit is 19-50 against Minnesota since 2001. Seven of those are this season. … Santana’s 136 strikeouts lead the AL. … All 12 runs scored by the Tigers came on homers.They hit a three-run shot, a two-run homer and nine solos.

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