Foppert makes first major-league start in two years

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Coming off a road trip in which they struggled to get key hits in close games, the Minnesota Twins were
understandably nervous as Tuesday's game against San Francisco reached extra innings.

The Twins finally got Shannon Stewart to the plate with the game on the line and, as usual, he came through.

Stewart's two-out RBI single in the 11th inning lifted the Twins to a 4-3 victory over the Giants.

"Shannon Stewart came through again," Torii Hunter said. "Like always."

Michael Cuddyer led off the 11th with a broken-bat single off Jeff Fassero and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Brent Abernathy, who could barely lift his right shoulder after running into the wall in foul territory in the top of the inning.

Two batters later, Stewart blooped a single off Tyler Walker
that landed just in between second baseman Ray Durham and center fielder Jason Ellison in right-center.

"I didn't hit the ball that good, but the results were good," Stewart said.

They usually are when Stewart comes up late in the game.

The Twins had lost four of their last five one-run games, but Stewart is no stranger to big hits. This season alone, he had the game-winning homer in the 11th against Cleveland on May 26, the game-winning RBI single in the eighth inning against Kansas City on April 20 and the game-winning double in the ninth against Detroit on April 12.

"I watch all the great players like Michael Jordan, Paul Molitor," Stewart said. "They don't back down. They want to be in those situations."

Twins starter Johan Santana gave up three runs, six hits and struck out seven in eight innings. Jesse Crain (6-0) worked a scoreless 11th to get the win.

Jesse Foppert was impressive in his first major-league start in nearly two years and Durham had three hits with a homer, a double and two runs for the Giants, but it wasn't enough to keep them from losing for the 15th time in 17 games.

"He pitched well," Giants manager Felipe Alou said. "The kid has got a lot of heart and gave us a shot to win the game. But we messed up on a couple plays."

Fassero (1-4) took the loss after Scott Munter and Jason Christiansen combined for 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief for San Francisco.

Foppert showed little signs of rust after having elbow ligament replacement surgery in 2003, giving up three runs -- two earned -- and five walks in 5 2/3 innings.

Cuddyer had three hits and a home run for the Twins, who rallied from a 3-1 deficit.

Santana fell behind thanks to Durham's homer and RBI singles by Pedro Feliz and Omar Vizquel.

Foppert cruised through the first five innings, giving up just two hits, including Cuddyer's solo homer.

Hunter was nearly picked off in the sixth but avoided a tag by Feliz to get back safely to first and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Justin Morneau to make it 3-2.

Cuddyer followed with a single and Luis Rodriguez walked to chase Foppert. With the bases loaded and two outs, Munter got Juan Castro to ground to Vizquel's backhand at shortstop. Vizquel wheeled and threw to second but Durham dropped the ball, allowing Jones to score from third and tie it at 3.

It's been that kind of season for the Giants (25-37), who are 12 games under .500 for the first time since they finished 1996 at 68-94, thanks mostly to the absence of injured superstar Barry Bonds.

Cuddyer led off the fifth with a homer that Moises Alou nearly robbed in left. Alou leaped at the wall, and the ball glanced off his glove and fell into the seats, prompting Alou to throw his mitt to the turf in disgust.

Foppert walked two of the next three hitters but got designated hitter Lew Ford to ground into an inning-ending double play to keep the lead.

"We lost the game on two bloopers," Alou said. "But we had a couple opportunities there."

Game notes
Giants right fielder Todd Linden made his first appearance of the season after being called up from Triple-A Fresno on Monday. He went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts. ... Giants DH Lance Niekro was scratched from the lineup after fouling a ball off his left big toe during batting practice. ... Jacque Jones' single in the sixth extended his hitting streak to a career-high 13 games. ... Castro went 0-for-5 on Tuesday and is hitless in his last 14 at-bats.