Santana strikes out 11 Rangers

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- With each stellar outing, Johan Santana
is becoming a top contender for the AL Cy Young Award.

Santana allowed one run in eight innings to win his seventh
straight decision, and the Minnesota Twins padded their lead in the
AL Central with a 7-4 victory over the Texas Rangers on Monday

"If he keeps pitching like that, he's got a serious shot,"
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Santana (14-6) gave up four hits, struck out 11 and walked one
to help the Twins win for the seventh time in eight games,
stretching their division lead over Cleveland to eight games.

Santana, who hasn't lost since July 11, struck out Brian Jordan
in the second inning to give him 200 this season -- the first Twins
pitcher with that many since Bert Blyleven had 215 in 1986. Santana
has 10 double-digit strikeout games this year, 13 for his career.

"He has three quality pitches -- a good fastball, changeup and
slider -- and that makes for a very good pitcher," Gardenhire said.

Santana already has his most career victories and has gone at
least six innings in his last 13 starts. He insists he's more
concerned about team achievements than postseason awards.

"I'm just doing my job," he said. "If you're healthy and
perform, a lot of things will take care of themselves. Winning will
take care of things at the end of the season."

Santana said his ability to throw his fastball for quality
strikes makes his other pitches even more effective. The majority
of Santana's strikeouts Monday night came on changeups set up by
his fastball.

"That's the difference between this year and last year,"
Santana said. "If you locate your fastball, it helps all the other
pitches. My changeup is very good. I'm getting ahead in the count
and that gives me more pitches to work with. I'll throw any pitch
at any time."

The Rangers started the night third in the majors in homers and
extra-base hits, but Santana limited Texas to one homer.

"He had a great night," Texas' Alfonso Soriano said. "He was
very awesome. He had a great fastball and a very good breaking
ball. I think right now he's the toughest pitcher in the league."

Shannon Stewart and Henry Blanco homered for the Twins in their
first matchup with the Rangers this season. The teams began a
stretch of seven games in 11 days.

Kenny Rogers (15-6) allowed nine baserunners during the first
three innings and remains two short of matching his career high for
victories set in 1995. Rogers gave up six runs and 10 hits in 5 2-3

Gary Matthews Jr. homered and had two hits for the Rangers,
who've lost two straight following an eight-game winning streak.
Texas remained a game behind Boston in the AL wild-card race.

Hank Blalock hit a three-run homer -- his 27th -- with two outs in
the ninth off Grant Balfour to close it to 7-4, but Matthews struck
out to end it.

Stewart hit the second pitch from Rogers into the right-field
seats for his third leadoff homer of the season and 19th of his

"It was good to jump ahead," Santana said. "From there, I
tried not to let them get on top of their game. They can hit the
ball out of the park in a hurry, but I was able to keep them

Blanco made it 2-0 with a solo shot in the second, giving him a
career-high eight homers this season. Blanco's RBI double in the
third stretched the lead to 3-0 before Matthews gave the Rangers
their first hit with a solo homer in the bottom of the inning.

In the sixth, Luis Rivas' RBI single and Torii Hunter's two-run
double ended Rogers' night as the Twins took a 6-1 advantage.

Lew Ford hit an RBI single in the ninth to make it 7-1.

Game notes
Right-hander Chris Young will make his major league debut
when he starts for the Rangers on Tuesday night. He'll be called up
from Triple-A Oklahoma before the game, and will be the 16th
starting pitcher used by the Rangers this season. At 6-10, he's the
tallest player in team history. Young is from Dallas and starred in
baseball and basketball in college for Princeton. Young will become
the first player from Princeton to start a major league game since
Dave Sisler of the Washington Senators in 1961. ... Minnesota's
Corey Koskie extended his season-high hitting streak to 11 games.