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Santana fans nine, scatters four hits through eight

6/28/2002

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Against the free-swinging Milwaukee Brewers,
opposing pitchers don't have a hard time racking up strikeouts.

But even the game's most patient batters would've found it tough
to hit Johan Santana on Friday night.

A.J. Pierzynski and Dustan Mohr each hit two-run homers and
Santana threw eight strong innings for the Minnesota Twins in a 5-1
victory over the Brewers.

"On a night like tonight, I think he could've beaten just about
any team,'' said Twins acting manager Scott Ullger, filling in for
the third straight game for Ron Gardenhire, whose father died this
week.

"They've got some good hitters over there,'' Ullger said, "but
Johan was pretty sharp.''

Santana (3-1) scattered four singles, didn't walk anybody and
struck out a career-high nine as the Brewers dropped to 1-9 in
interleague play.

"The key when I'm pitching is to throw my fastball for
strikes,'' Santana said. "I was able to get ahead in the count.''

The Twins, who stayed six games ahead of the Chicago White Sox
in the AL Central, improved to 14-11 this month and guaranteed
their first winning June since 1996. Even last year, when they went
50-31 in the first half and led the division by five games at the
All-Star break, the Twins were only .500 in June.

Santana, recalled May 31 to fill in for Brad Radke after the
Twins' ace reaggravated a pulled groin, has been a big boost to the
rotation that has Radke and Joe Mays on the disabled list, and Eric
Milton and Rick Reed struggling with consistency.

Santana has allowed one run in four of his starts and just two
in his other one. The eight innings were a career best and he
lowered his earned-run average to 2.65. When Radke and Mays return in July, the
Twins will find it tough to take Santana out of the rotation.

"I'm glad I don't have to make that decision,'' said
Pierzynski, who drove in Hunter for the Twins' fifth run with a
chopper that bounced high off the plate.

The Twins' bullpen, which has been one of the best in baseball
this season, has pitched more innings than any in the majors.

"That was fun,'' said pitching coach Rick Anderson, who
recently suggested to Santana he move to the middle of the rubber.
"We need to have these starters step up and get us at least six
innings.''

Santana gave up his first run in the seventh when Richie Sexson
got a one-out hit to left, took second on a groundout, third on a
wild pitch and scored on Alex Ochoa's base hit to center.

Santana even struck out leadoff hitter Eric Young twice, the
third-toughest batter to fan in the NL at once every 18 at-bats.

"Give him all the credit,'' Young said. "He was dealing. His
changeup was outstanding and one of the best I've seen in a long
time.''

Brewers starter Ben Sheets (4-9) was hurt by the long ball -- a
rarity for him. In 96 innings before Friday, Sheets gave up five
homers -- three of them to Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and Lance
Berkman.

But after a single by Dustan Mohr in the second, Pierzynski
smashed the first pitch he saw into the facade just below the upper
deck in right field.

Torii Hunter led off the fourth with a double, and one out later
Mohr hit his seventh homer to left on a 1-0 pitch.

Sheets gave up eight hits, four runs and two walks while
striking out one in 6 2-3 innings.

"They made me pay for my mistakes,'' Sheets said. "They're a
good ballclub.''

Game notes
Clyde Gardenhire's funeral is Saturday afternoon in
Okmulgee, Okla. He'll rejoin the team for Monday's game in Oakland.
... Brewers SS Jose Hernandez, a strong candidate to make the
All-Star team, struck out twice against Santana and leads the
majors with 99. Nobody in either league had more than 85 entering
Friday's games. ... Jose Cabrera was previously listed as
Milwaukee's starter, but the Brewers want their first four pitchers
throwing every fifth day. Cabrera will start Saturday. ... Not
including 1969, when the Brewers played in Seattle as the Pilots,
the Twins are 181-180 against their Upper Midwest rivals. ...
Santana, who made one relief appearance in May, has a 1.88 ERA as a
starter. He walked six batters in his last start, Sunday in
Philadelphia. ... Hunter stole two bases and has a career-best 13.