Series: Game 1 of 3

Minnesota leads 1-0 (as of 9/3)

Game 1: Friday, September 3
Kansas City0Final
Game 2: Saturday, September 4
Kansas City3Final
Game 3: Sunday, September 5
Kansas City12Final

Royals 0

(47-86, 17-49 away)

Twins 2

(76-58, 42-28 home)

8:10 PM ET, September 3, 2004

Mall of America Field, Minneapolis, Minnesota 

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KC 000000000 0 2 0
MIN 00000200 - 2 9 1

W: J. Santana (16-6)

L: D. May (9-16)

S: J. Nathan (38)

He doesn't allow hit until seventh in 16th win

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Just when it looked like Johan Santana couldn't possibly pitch any better, he topped himself once again.

Santana threw a no-hitter through six and finished with seven shutout innings for the Minnesota Twins in a 2-0 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Friday night.

"That showed me something," teammate Torii Hunter said. "He elevated his game. That was sweet. I thought we were in the playoffs."

Desi Relaford lined a clean single to left leading off the seventh to end Santana's bid. Still, the AL's Pitcher of the Month for July and August won his ninth straight start and further strengthened his credentials as a Cy Young candidate.

"He's been doing that all season," Relaford said. "That was just another day at the office for him."

Santana (16-6) gave up one hit and one walk, striking out 11 and throwing 106 pitches. He was at his best in the seventh, after Joe Randa reached on a fielder's choice grounder and Relaford moved to third with nobody out following Michael Cuddyer's dropped relay throw at second base.

Matt Stairs struck out. So did Abraham Nunez. And then Angel Berroa.

"That's the type of pitcher I am," Santana said. "I don't want to let you score."

Santana, who struck out every batter in Kansas City's depleted lineup at least once, sent Nunez and Berroa back to the bench looking silly after swinging and missing well ahead of his renowned changeup.

After Berroa struck out, Santana and catcher Henry Blanco each pumped their fist as the crowd of 22,239 roared its approval.

"You could tell he told himself he was going to make the pitch of his life, and he did," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

In his last 17 starts, Santana is an incredible 14-2 with a 1.57 ERA and 163 strikeouts. He's allowed only 61 hits and 25 walks in 126 1-3 innings. He lowered his ERA for the season to 2.95 and raised his AL-leading strikeout total to 224.

"You could see it in his face," Gardenhire said. "He was going to get out of that thing."

J.C. Romero worked the eighth to extend his club-record scoreless streak to 32 1-3 innings, and Joe Nathan pitched a perfect ninth for his 38th save in 41 chances to finish the two-hitter.

Hunter and Justin Morneau hit consecutive home runs in the sixth and Shannon Stewart went 3-for-4 for the Twins, who lead Chicago by 9½ games and Cleveland by 10 games in the AL Central.

"I feel pretty good, but it's not just about me," Santana said. "We're winning."

The Royals, who were in first place as late as Aug. 30 last season, are 28½ games back after missing a chance for their first three-game winning streak since mid-July. Starter Darrell May allowed nine hits, two runs and one walk in six innings, but was tagged with his major league-leading 16th loss.

"He threw well," manager Tony Pena said. "He got in some jams, but he worked himself out of them. Good pitching stops good offense. It doesn't matter what kind of offense you have."

Kansas City's last 29 hits have all been singles, one shy of the club record set in September 2000. With the way Santana has been pitching and the way the Royals have been hitting, the result was hardly surprising. Calvin Pickering, whose fifth-inning homer on Monday against Detroit was Kansas City's last extra-base hit, lined a smash to center field to lead off the third -- but Hunter, a three-time Gold Glove winner, snared it with a diving catch.

Nobody else came close to a hit after that until Relaford's spoiling single in the seventh. Berroa became the first baserunner by drawing a two-out walk in the fifth, but Santana followed it by striking out Pickering.

"My hope was to give him a no-decision or a loss by keeping the game close," said May (9-16), who gave up 20 runs in his last three starts. "Everybody has a bad day, but today wasn't his bad day."

Game notes

Twins 2B Luis Rivas had the nails removed from both of his big toes before the game. They've given him problems all season, and Gardenhire said Rivas might be out for another week. ... The Royals reinstated OF Dee Brown (ribcage) from the 15-day disabled list before the game following a rehab assignment with Triple-A Omaha. Brown wasn't in the lineup, but he is 10-for-25 with a grand slam and six RBI against the Twins this year. ... Minnesota's last no-hitter was on Sept. 11, 1999, when Eric Milton shut down Anaheim. ... The Royals are 0-7 at the Metrodome this year.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press