A-Rod goes 0-for-3 on 30th birthday as Yanks slip in AL East

NEW YORK (AP) -- Good thing Johan Santana was back in top form.

The Minnesota Twins' offense wasted nearly every opportunity it
was given over the first five innings, but Santana had his best
start in six weeks, stifling the New York Yankees for seven innings
and leading the Twins to a 7-3 victory on Wednesday night.

"You feel confident you can get a win against anybody when he's
going," Twins center fielder Torii Hunter said.

Alex Rodriguez went 0-for-3 with two walks on his 30th birthday,
and Al Leiter struggled with his control in losing his second
straight start for the Yankees, who fell two games behind
first-place Boston in the AL East.

The Twins had scored just 43 runs in 13 games following the
All-Star break, going 19-for-101 with runners in scoring position.
They were 2-for-14 in that category through the six innings
Wednesday. But they broke open the game with three runs in the
seventh against Tanyon Sturtze and stopped a 10-game regular season
losing streak at Yankee Stadium.

"We had to set some kind of record for leaving men on base in
the first five innings," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We
were frustrated in the dugout."

Santana (10-5) was more effective than he was when he beat the
Yankees 2-0 in Game 1 of last year's division series. In that game,
he needed a record five double plays to help keep New York in

On Wednesday, he scattered seven hits and only once came close
to giving up a run but Hunter threw out Derek Jeter at the plate in
the third inning on Gary Sheffield's single.

"He hit the ball so hard I had plenty of time to make the
throw," Hunter said. "When he hits a ball, Jeter needs to run a
little faster."

Santana won his third straight start after dropping three
consecutive decisions. He hadn't shown the form that earned him the
2004 AL Cy Young Award since throwing a four-hitter against Arizona
on June 8.

"I think everything was working tonight," Santana said. "I
knew I was facing a tough lineup from top to bottom. I tried to
stay aggressive with all my pitches."

Justin Morneau had an RBI double in the third off Leiter (1-2)
to give Minnesota the lead, and Hunter's RBI single and Shannon
Stewart's two-run double made it 4-0 in the seventh. Jacque Jones
added a two-run homer in the eighth against Scott Proctor, and
Morneau connected in the ninth off Alex Graman.

Minnesota's Juan Rincon forced in a run with a bases loaded walk
to Jason Giambi in the eighth. The Yankees added two more on second
baseman Bret Boone's throwing error before Joe Nathan entered and
got four outs for his 28th save. With two on in the eighth, Bernie
Williams nearly tied it with a drive down the right-field line that
landed a few feet foul.

"I didn't know how hard he hit it," Gardenhire said. "We were
yelling 'Hook,' and 'Don't throw that pitch again.' "

Making his first start in pinstripes since April 14, 1989,
Leiter labored through five innings, allowing the leadoff batter to
reach base four times and throwing 115 pitches -- just 62 for
strikes. But thanks to a well-executed relay by Hideki Matsui in
left and Jeter at shortstop, he allowed just one run.

"He's done this thing for a long time, he pitched his tail
off," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "Trust me, he knows who
he's pitching against, one run could be a pearl."

The performance was as gritty as his last home game for the
Yankees. He threw 162 pitches in eight-plus innings against the
Twins, getting the win despite giving up five runs and walking nine
with 10 strikeouts. Two weeks later he was traded to Toronto.

On Wednesday, Leiter walked five, hit a batter and struck out
two. The Twins loaded the bases in the first two innings but came
away without a run.

Leiter said he was nervous in his first game at Yankee Stadium
since being acquired July 16.

"I created a lot of my own trouble," Leiter said. "The basis
for every starter is the first couple of innings. I was scrambling
right away."

New York also threw out a runner at the plate in the third.
Morneau hit a double off the wall in left, scoring Joe Mauer. Boone
tried to come around from first but was easily thrown out by
Jeter's relay.

Game notes
Matsui played in his 424th straight game, tying a major-league record for consecutive games played to start a career. Ernie
Banks also played in 424 games for the Chicago Cubs from 1953-56.
... The game was interrupted briefly in the seventh inning when a
man ran onto the field and slid into second base. He tipped his cap
to the cheering crowd and immediately gave himself up to Yankee
Stadium security. The crowd booed heartily when a New York police
officer handcuffed him. ... After the game, Yankees team doctor
Stuart Hershon said he spoke with injured pitcher Kevin Brown's
doctor in Denver but he wasn't ready to discuss the team's plan for
Brown, who is out again with a bad back.