Twins 4, Athletics 3

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—After he was done striking out hitters, Johan Santana was happy to hand the ball off to Minnesota’s bullpen.

Santana struck out 10 again, outpitching Tim Hudson in a marquee matchup, and Joe Nathan converted his club-record 25th straight save to lead the Twins over the Oakland Athletics 4-3 on Saturday.

“I always trust myself and the things that I can do, but I also trust my teammates,” Santana said. “I trust that we’re a team and that’s all that matters.”

Santana (11-6) won his fourth straight decision and reached double digits in strikeouts for the eighth time in his last 10 starts, increasing his AL-leading total to 183.

Torii Hunter scored twice and drove in another run for the Twins, who have won 14 of 18. When Oakland scored three times in the seventh to close to 4-3, Juan Rincon came in and stopped the rally.

Nathan made his usual rock star entrance to an AC/DC song in the ninth and promptly earned his 32nd save in 33 chances.

“There’s definitely a lot of adrenaline going through your body and as long as you can control it, it’s awesome,” Nathan said. “Everything’s feeling good right now.”

Nathan, acquired from the Giants in the offseason, wasn’t a closer until this year but has obviously acclimated to his new team and role.

“Yeah, I’d say that’s a pretty good pickup,” Oakland manager Ken Macha said.

Hudson (7-4) pitched well in his return to the mound for Oakland, which lost for just the fourth time in 14 games.

“My rehab starts felt pretty sharp so I had confidence coming into today,” Hudson said. “I felt pretty sharp out there.”

Activated from the 15-day disabled list before the game, the right-hander allowed four runs and eight hits in 5 2-3 innings. He struck out four and walked one in his first outing since June 22, when he strained his left oblique muscle.

“I didn’t feel like I missed six weeks,” Hudson said at first, before catching himself. “Well, I guess after two outs in the sixth it felt like I missed six weeks, but that’s how it is.”

Santana took a shutout into the seventh but didn’t last much longer. He gave up three runs and seven hits in 6 1-3 innings, walking one. Rincon escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the seventh.

Rincon then worked a perfect eighth before Nathan’s perfect ninth.

Hudson (2.98 ERA) and Santana (3.30) entered ranked 1-2 in ERA in the American League. All nine of Santana’s double-digit strikeout games have come in his last 12 starts.

“He doesn’t make too many mistakes,” said Oakland leadoff hitter Eric Byrnes, who struck out twice. “And when he does it’s with his fastball, which is so explosive all you can do is foul it off.”

Minnesota scratched out a run against Hudson with two outs in the fourth. Hunter singled, stole second and scored all the way from second on Lew Ford’s RBI infield single.

The Twins mounted another two-out rally against Hudson in the sixth, this time scoring three runs. Justin Morneau doubled and scored on Hunter’s RBI single to make it 2-0. Right fielder Jermaine Dye made a throwing error on the play, allowing Hunter to reach third.

After Ford walked, Hunter scored on Hudson’s wild pitch and Ford went from first to third. Jose Offerman followed with an RBI single to make it 4-0 and finish Hudson.

The A’s finally got to Santana with three runs in the seventh. Consecutive singles by Dye, Scott Hatteberg and Damian Miller loaded the bases with none out, and Erubiel Durazo followed with an RBI groundout. Former Twin Bobby Kielty then hit a run-scoring single to make it 4-2 and chase Santana.

Rookie Jesse Crain relieved, and Marco Scutaro greeted him with an RBI single. Crain allowed another single to load the bases again, but Rincon struck out Bobby Crosby before retiring Eric Chavez to preserve the lead.

Jacque Jones bruised his left knee and fell to the ground after fouling a pitch off his right instep in the second inning. According to Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, the ball also hit Jones’ left knee before his foot. But even the coaches and trainers were confused by the injury.

“(Trainer) Jim Kahmann was working on his leg where we thought the ball hit him and Jacque rolled over and said, ‘It’s my other knee,”’ recalled Gardenhire. “All I know is it was very entertaining at home plate.”

Jones was replaced by Ford in right field to start the third, but should be ready to play Sunday.


Eddie Guardado had 24 straight saves for Minnesota from 2002-03. … Santana has struck out at least 10 batters 12 times in his career. … To make room on the 25-man roster for Hudson, the A’s placed RHP Kirk Saarloos (bone spur in right elbow) on the 15-day disabled list. … Dye’s errant throw ended his club-record 165-game errorless streak. His last error was on Sept. 24, 2002.

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