MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Johan Santana allowed six hits over seven innings, and the Minnesota Twins snapped their four-game losing streak with a 3-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night.

Last year’s AL Cy Young Award winner gave up four hits in the first two innings, but didn’t allow another hit until Matthew Diaz’s solo homer in the seventh. After the homer, Paul Phillips doubled and reached third on Donnie Murphy’s sacrifice bunt. But Santana (15-7) retired Andres Blanco and Chip Ambres to escape the inning.

He struck out six, running his major league-leading total to 229, and walked two before being relieved by Juan Rincon in the eighth inning. Joe Nathan pitched a perfect ninth for his 40th save.

Royals starter Runelvys Hernandez began the game by walking Nick Punto and Luis Rodriguez. A passed ball by Phillips allowed Punto to advance to third. Joe Mauer’s single scored Punto, and Lew Ford drove in Rodriguez with a sacrifice fly two batters later.

After the first inning, Hernandez allowed one hit over the next four innings. But against Santana, that wasn’t good enough.

Following the shaky start, Santana retired nine straight and 11 of 13, helping the Twins bounce back from an embarrassing 5-0 loss to Kansas City on Monday.

Minnesota put the game away in the bottom of the seventh. Luis Rivas singled and Punto doubled to start the inning. Rodriguez’s sacrifice fly scored Rivas and chased Hernandez (5-13).

The loss continued a difficult two months for Hernandez, who allowed three runs and five hits and walked four in 6 1-3 innings. He hasn’t posted a victory since winning for the third straight time on July 22. He was suspended for 10 games in July and was on the disabled list from Aug. 26-Sept. 6 with lower back tightness.

Notes: The Twins scored in the first inning for the first time since Aug. 30. They were 8-16 in that span. … Santana has an 8-2 record and 1.88 ERA since the All-Star break. … Diaz’s homer was his first since Sept. 22, 2004.

AP-ES-09-27-05 2241EDT

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