NEW YORK – Johan Santana had his best start in six weeks, shutting down New York Yankees for seven innings and leading the Minnesota Twins to a 7-3 victory Wednesday night.

Alex Rodriguez went 0-for-3 with two walks on his 30th birthday, and Al Leiter struggled with his control and lost his second straight start for the Yankees, who fell two games back of the Boston Red Sox in the AL East.

The Twins had had scored just 43 runs in 13 games following the All-Star break, going 19-for-101 with runners in scoring position, and they were 2-for-14 in that category through the six innings. 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.

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 check.

On Wednesday, he scattered seven hits and only once came close to giving up a run – center fielder Torii Hunter threw out Derek Jeter at the plate in the third inning.

Santana won his third straight start after dropping three consecutive decisions, striking out five and walking two. 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.

Blue Jays 3, Angels 2

TORONTO – Brendan Donnelly’s wild pitch with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the 10th inning allowed Toronto to score the winning run and the Blue Jays beat the Los Angeles Angels 3-2 on Wednesday night.

Russ Adams led off Toronto’s 10th with a single off Donnelly (6-3) and Frank Catalanotto advanced him with a sacrifice bunt.

Donnelly intentionally walked Vernon Wells to face rookie Aaron Hill, who ended an 0-for-18 slump with an infield single to third that loaded the bases.

Donnelly then bounced his first pitch to Corey Koskie, allowing Adams to slide in for the winning run.

Miguel Batista (5-3) pitched two innings for the victory as the Angels lost their third straight.

Cubs 4, Giants 3

CHICAGO – Jeromy Burnitz hit a winning single in the ninth inning as the Chicago Cubs rallied past the San Francisco Giants 4-3 Wednesday for their fourth victory in five games.

Chicago trailed 3-2 in the eighth inning when Derrek Lee singled leading off against former-Cub LaTroy Hawkins, Aramis Ramirez reached on a one-out infield single against Scott Eyre and pinch-hitter Matt Murton hit a fly ball that right fielder Michael Tucker lost in the sun and allowed to drop for an RBI single. Had Tucker caught the ball, Lee likely would have tagged up at third and scored.

In the ninth, Jody Gerut pinch hit for pitcher Ryan Dempster (5-3) and was walked by Kevin Correia (1-3) leading off the inning.

Jeff Fassero relieved, Jose Macias sacrificed and Todd Walker flied out.

Braves 4, Nationals 3

ATLANTA – Jeff Francoeur made the most of his first start against a right-handed pitcher, getting three hits, including a go-ahead, eighth-inning double that led the Atlanta Braves over the Washington Nationals 4-3 Wednesday night.

Atlanta wasted 3-1 lead in the eighth, then went ahead in the bottom half against Gary Majewski (2-2).

Chipper Jones singled with two outs and stole second, and Adam LaRoche was intentionally walked to bring up Francoeur, who was called up from Double-A Mississippi on July 7 and has been sharing playing time in right field with Ryan Langerhans.

Francoeur blooped a double into shallow center, allowing Jones to score the go-ahead run. Francoeur also gave the Braves a 2-1 lead with a fourth-inning single.

Astros 3, Phillies 2

HOUSTON – Roger Clemens made it through seven shaky innings – by his high standard – and the streaking Houston Astros benefited from a fielding gaffe by Philadelphia pitcher Vicente Padilla in a 3-2 victory over the Phillies on Wednesday night.

The Astros won their fourth straight and 10th in 11 games. They also beat Philadelphia for the ninth straight time and improved to 18-2 in their last 20 games at home.

Coming off perhaps his best outing of the season, Clemens rarely had it easy in any of his seven innings. But he allowed only a run with two outs in the first inning and another in the fourth, taking his major league-leading ERA up just from 1.40 to 1.46 with his sixth win in seven decisions.

Clemens (9-4) was in a jam until the end, going to a 3-0 count on Kenny Lofton with the tying run at second and two outs in the top of the seventh. After a called strike, Lofton thought he’d checked his swing on the next pitch but it was ruled a strike by the first base umpire when Lofton was nearly halfway to the base.

Royals 6, White Sox 5

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Mike Sweeney homered twice and drove in five runs, and Emil Brown hit a run-scoring single in the 13th inning as the Kansas City Royals overcame a five-run deficit and beat the Chicago White Sox 6-5 Wednesday.

Chicago starter Jon Garland, trying to become the first 16-game winner in the major leagues, left with a 5-2 lead but his bullpen couldn’t hold it, partly because of sloppy fielding.

Kansas City took two of three games in the series against the White Sox, whose 65-35 record is the best in the major leagues. While the Royals are 38-63, the second-worst record in the AL ahead of only Tampa Bay, they also swept a three-game series from the New York Yankees from May 31-June 2.

Marlins 3, Pirates 1

MIAMI – Juan Encarnacion and Damion Easley homered and rookie Jason Vargas pitched three scoreless innings following a second rain delay for his first major league victory, leading the Florida Marlins to a 3-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night.

Encarnacion hit his 15th homer, a two-run shot in the fourth, off Ryan Vogelsong (0-1). Easley hit a solo shot, his eighth, off Salomon Torres in the seventh.

Vargas (1-0), who allowed a one-out walk to Matt Lawton in the fifth, retired nine of the 10 batters he faced in his fourth appearance since being called up from Double-A Carolina on July 14. He struck out five of the first six batters he faced after taking over from starter Ismael Valdez.

Mets 9, Rockies 3

DENVER – Marlon Anderson hit two homers, Ramon Castro homered and had three RBIs and Victor Zambrano pitched seven strong innings to help the New York Mets avoid a three-game sweep to baseball’s worst team with a 9-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday night.

New York had five runs and 15 hits the first two games at Coors Field before finally breaking out at the hitter-friendly park. The Mets had 13 hits – every starter had at least one – batted around in a six-run fifth inning and scored at least nine runs for the ninth time to avoid their first sweep by Colorado in eight years.

David Wright of the Mets had a two-run double to extend his hitting streak to 14 games, Jose Reyes had three hits to push his hitting streak to 10 and Anderson hit solo homers in the second and fourth innings for his first career multihomer game

The Rockies were looking for their third sweep of the season and fourth win in six games. Starter Jamey Wright (5-11) didn’t give them much of a chance..

The right-hander gave up the two homers to Anderson, then allowed six runs in the fifth before being lifted with no outs. Wright allowed nine runs and 11 hits, the sixth time in 20 starts he’s give up at least six earned runs.


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