<
>

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.