Friday: Santana falters in late-season start

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 22, 2007 - 11:34 AM

The White Sox roughed up the Twins' ace, and Jim Thome inflicted more pain on his division rivals as two sub-.500 teams battled at the Metrodome.

Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen thought his team had issues.

The Twins could lose Torii Hunter to free agency this fall, and Johan Santana's contract expires after next season.

Before Chicago's 6-4 victory Friday at the Metrodome, Guillen was asked what would happen if the Twins lose both All-Stars.

"You don't have Hunter and Santana, wow," Guillen said. "... They'll go from piranhas to little sardines."

Guillen chuckled, of course. Few opponents heap more praise on the Twins than him. He had dubbed the Twins "The Little Piranhas" last season as they stormed to their fourth division title in five years.

With little at stake Friday but pride, the White Sox finally solved Santana, who was 12-1 with a 1.56 ERA against them in 15 previous starts.

This time, they rocked him for six runs in seven innings, getting two home runs from Josh Fields and another from Jim Thome.

Santana (15-13) never had allowed more than 24 home runs in a season, but now he's given up 33. It would have been 34 if Lew Ford hadn't reached over the left field wall to rob Thome of a second homer in the seventh inning.

"When [Santana] gets the ball up, it'll go just as far with him as anybody else," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He didn't make enough adjustments to the hitters and got the ball over the plate too many times. That doesn't happen with Johan very often, but it did tonight."

With 11 strikeouts, Santana did take over the American League lead with 231. Tampa Bay's Scott Kazmir had nine strikeouts against Boston, giving him 229.

With one start remaining, Wednesday in Detroit, Santana will try to hold that lead for a fourth consecutive strikeout crown.

Barring an offseason trade, the Twins will have Santana for one more season, at least, but there are increasing doubts they'll be able to keep Hunter.

"It's sad because he's a great player," Santana said. "He deserves to stay here. He's a great player, a great teammate, and there's no question he's one of the best in the community.

"So, what's going to happen? I don't know. He's looking for the best for him and for his family and hopefully the team will find a way to keep him around."

For Fan Appreciation Weekend, Hunter taped a brief statement that ran on the video board before the eighth inning. In it, he thanked the fans for their support and told them to come back in 2008 because it'll be "exciting."

Still, he gave no hint that he'd be a part of it. Playing in perhaps his third-to-last home game at the Metrodome, Hunter went 1-for-5. He doubled and scored in the third inning, as the Twins grabbed a 3-1 lead against Mark Buehrle (10-9).

But the Sox trimmed the lead to 3-2 in the fourth, and Thome's three-run homer in the fifth put Chicago back in front for good.

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