Twins 7, Rangers 1
That changed in a big way Tuesday night.
“We’ve been struggling to combine good pitching and good hitting,” Santana said. “It was definitely good to see.”
Santana (5-4) broke a personal two-game losing streak, shutting down a Texas offense that had produced 28 runs in its two previous games. Santana reached double digits for strikeouts for the 35th time and fell one short of matching his career high.
Sammy Sosa hit his 598th career homer for the Rangers, who struck out 18 times in the game.
Texas was coming off a 14-4 win over the Twins on Monday night.
“We came to batting practice with a lot of confidence knowing Johan was on the mound,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He’s a guy who can right a ship. He’s the best pitcher in the league. When he has the ball, we think we should win.”
Santana allowed one run and four hits, and walked two, using a sizzling fastball and a changeup that kept the Rangers off balance.
“Santana had his strikeout stuff tonight,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “His changeup is great. His arm action is so good on the changeup that you think you’re swinging at a fastball. You tell yourself not to swing at the changeup and he pops that fastball.”
Sosa said Santana was nearly untouchable.
“Santana’s one of the greatest pitchers in the league,” Sosa said. “When you face a guy like that, one run isn’t enough. Everything was working for him. He was incredible.”
The Twins had scored a total of five runs in Santana’s three previous starts, but Morneau provided plenty of support with his seventh career multihomer game and third this season.
Morneau, starting at designated hitter instead of first base, hit a two-run shot in the fourth and a three-run drive in the fifth to give him 13 homers for the season.
“I don’t like to DH but after my first at-bat, I was able to relax,” Morneau said. “It was a pretty fun day.”
Santana, the 2006 Cy Young winner, struck out seven of the first nine he faced, including five in a row in the second and third innings.
Minnesota needed Santana to go deep into the game to take the pressure off a short-handed bullpen.
The Twins were without injured left-handers Dennys Reyes (sore left shoulder) and Glen Perkins (strained muscle in his left shoulder), and right-hander Jesse Crain will have season-ending surgery next Tuesday for a right shoulder injury. Left-hander Carmen Cali was called up from Triple-A Rochester prior to the game when Perkins went on the disabled list.
“We were able to combine a whole bunch of good things,” Morneau said. “Johan threw well and we got big two-out hits and got the lead. He was able to go deep and we took it easy on our bullpen.”
Sosa put the Rangers in front when he led off the second inning with his 10th homer. In his second career at-bat against Santana, Sosa crushed a 3-2 fastball over the center-field wall to move within two of becoming the fifth player in major league history with 600 homers.
In the fifth, Luis Castillo singled, Cuddyer drew a two-out walk, and Morneau homered to make it 5-1.
Loe allowed five runs and eight hits in six innings, striking out three and walking two.
“I got beat on two pitches,” Loe said. “Other than that, I pitched a fairly good game. But when I give up five runs early, I have nobody to blame but myself.”
Santana passed Frank Viola and moved into fourth on the Twins’ career list with 1,226 strikeouts. … Sosa has homered against 362 different pitchers. … Santana started the night with a 5.72 career ERA in seven prior starts against Texas, his highest against any AL opponent. … Hunter has 643 career RBIs, passing Bob Allison for seventh on Minnesota’s list. … The Twins had lost nine of their previous 12. … Loe has allowed five runs in each of his last three starts. … The last time the Rangers struck out 18 times in a nine-inning game was on July 13, 1997, against Cleveland. Texas struck out 19 times in 11 innings at Cleveland on April 25 this year.