The Twins’ ace just kept going, and his season is starting to look very familiar.
Santana pitched seven crisp innings to win his fourth straight start and Jason Kubel hit a tiebreaking homer that helped Minnesota beat the Yankees 6-2 Wednesday.
“I felt pretty good and I was throwing my fastball and locating it,” Santana said. “That was the most important thing, to locate my fastball, and I was able to do it.”
Santana (10-6) gave up two runs and four hits, struck out five and walked two. The All-Star left-hander hasn’t lost since June 9 against Washington. He needed 74 pitches to get through four innings but finished with 107, and wanted to stay in longer.
“I wasn’t too worried,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “I just said, ‘There he goes. It’s Johan on a big stage in New York.’ He likes it.”
Santana went 3-2 with a 1.98 ERA in six starts last month, just another stellar June in what’s becoming a pattern for the two-time Cy Young Award winner. He is 19-6 with a 2.63 ERA in 48 career games in June, the springboard for his strong closing months.
The 28-year-old is 45-10 with a 2.55 ERA after the All-Star break over the previous four seasons, and looks ready to do it again.
“He’s pretty much tough every day,” Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. “There aren’t too many teams that go out there and get four or five runs against him. He’s not fun to face, I’ll tell you that.”
Luis Rodriguez also hit a two-run homer for Minnesota, which snapped a three-game losing streak. The Twins scored just one run during the skid.
Hideki Matsui hit his ninth homer for New York, which lost for the fourth time in 15 home games. The Yankees also dropped to 3-3 on the 10-game homestand that takes them up to the All-Star break.
New York led 2-1 before Michael Cuddyer drove in Jason Bartlett with a groundout in the sixth. The Twins went ahead in the seventh when Torii Hunter led off with a double and Kubel hit Mike Mussina’s next pitch just over the wall in right for his sixth homer.
“It’s a pretty short porch down the line and I didn’t necessarily get it good, but just got it good enough to get it going,” Kubel said.
That was it for Mussina (4-6), who allowed three earned runs and five hits. The right-hander struck out five, walked none and fell to 20-6 in 30 career starts against the Twins.
“Leading 2-1 against Santana, you want to make that work,” said Mussina, who got the win in New York’s 2-1 victory over Oakland on Friday. “But this game is nine innings, not six. I made it stand up the other day. I couldn’t do it today.”
Minnesota improved to 10-27 against New York in the regular season since the start of 2002, including 3-15 at Yankee Stadium.
Mussina allowed an unearned run in the first when Bartlett reached on Jeter’s error, went to second on a groundout and scored on Justin Morneau’s ground-rule double to left.
Mussina struck out Hunter to get out of the inning and didn’t allow another baserunner until Morneau singled with one out in the fourth. The AL MVP was stranded there when Mussina got Hunter and Kubel to fly out to center.
Matsui homered to right on Santana’s second pitch of the second, and New York went in front in the fourth. Jeter started the rally with a leadoff double, beating the throw to second with a headfirst slide, and advanced to third on Alex Rodriguez’s groundout.
Santana walked Matsui before Andy Phillips hit a hard one-hopper toward third baseman Luis Rodriguez, who tried to backhand the ball but couldn’t bring it in. Jeter scored easily on the infield single to make it 2-1.
The Yankees loaded the bases with two outs but Santana retired Wil Nieves on a fly ball.
“He wants the ball,” Gardenhire said. “He wants to win as bad as anybody.”
Alex Rodriguez was New York’s designated hitter and went 0-for-4 in his second game since he strained his left hamstring Monday night. The third baseman said he hasn’t decided whether he will play in Tuesday’s All-Star game or use the three-day break to rest the injury.
“It’s frustrating,” Rodriguez said. “I want it to get better.”
Rodriguez, who leads the major leagues with 28 homers and 80 RBIs, topped fan balloting for the game in San Francisco with 3.89 million votes. He said he would still go even if he decides not to play.
Yankees owner George Steinbrenner celebrated his 77th birthday. … Johnny Damon pinch-hit in the eighth inning for New York and grounded out. He stayed in the game to play first base. … Twins second baseman Luis Castillo rested. Nick Punto got the start at second and Bartlett was the leadoff hitter. Punto made a great play to retire Melky Cabrera in the fifth. … Santana has pitched at least five innings in 109 consecutive starts. The last time he didn’t go at least five was May 23, 2004, against the Chicago White Sox.