Twins beat Dodgers 6-3

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 29, 2006 - 1:33 AM

Torii Hunter's grand slam and Johan Santana's seven scoreless innings overshadowed many other sterling performances.

In every corner of the Twins clubhouse Wednesday, there was a budding star, or an established star, with a story to tell.

They had just won for the 15th time in 16 games, defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-3 before being hit with the biggest media swarm they had seen at the Metrodome since the home opener.

Manager Ron Gardenhire's voice grew hoarse doling out credit for a stretch that might rank as the second-best in team history, next to its 15-game winning streak in 1991.

This time, Torii Hunter connected for a first-inning grand slam, and Johan Santana (9-4) gave up only two hits in seven scoreless innings, as the Twins ran their latest winning streak to seven.

"The great thing about everything going on here," Gardenhire said, "is Torii steps up today and hits a grand slam.

Added Gardenhire: "[Hunter's] always been a big part of this ballclub, so sometimes things get overlooked. But we know who our leader is, and he sits right out there in the middle of that clubhouse."

That clubhouse was a zoo, with reporters coming in waves at Joe Mauer, who went 2-for-3 with a run-scoring double to lift his major-league leading average to .392.

He had strung together eight consecutive hits in the series before grounding out in the second inning.

Mauer said when he returned to the dugout after that at-bat, fellow catcher Mike Redmond jokingly asked him if he was feeling well.

"He was a little shocked I got out, I guess," Mauer said.

With Mauer making a bid at hitting .400, he and 22-year-old rookie Francisco Liriano have drawn most of the attention of late.

Meanwhile, others success stories have become mere footnotes:

• Santana likely sewed up American League Pitcher of the Month honors with this latest outing. In six June starts, he went 5-0 with a 1.05 ERA.

"We're winning," Santana said of his quiet success. "That's all I care about."

• Justin Morneau went 3-for-4 with two doubles and his 64th RBI.

He steered praise toward cleanup hitter Michael Cuddyer, who went 2-for-4 with a run-scoring double.

"The guy who's not being talked about at all, and needs to be talked about a lot more is Cuddyer," Morneau said.

• The Twins had a 6-0 lead until Olmedo Saenz hit a three-run double off Juan Rincon in the eighth inning. That, at least, drew attention to the end of Rincon's quiet streak of 18 consecutive appearances without giving up a run.

• Finally, there's Joe Nathan, who struck out the side in the ninth inning to earn his 100th save as a Twin. He has 101 in his career, with one save with the San Francisco Giants in 1999.

With everything else going on, the accomplishment almost went unnoticed, and long after most reporters had left, he dressed peacefully by his locker.

"It's never a bad thing," Nathan said, "to have a bunch of stars of the game."

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