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Twins look to complete season sweep of Red Sox

Sep 21, 2006 - 1:04 PM Minnesota (90-61) at Boston (81-71) 7:05 pm EDT

BOSTON (Ticker) - Johan Santana takes the mound as the Minnesota Twins seek their first six-game winning streak against the Boston Red Sox in more than 12 years. A victory in Thursday's series finale also could vault the Twins to the top of the American League Central Division for the first time this season.

Torii Hunter clubbed a go-ahead three-run homer in the eighth inning to lead the Twins to a fifth win in as many meetings with the Red Sox this season, an 8-2 triumph here Wednesday. With the victory, Minnesota remained one-half game behind front-running Detroit in the AL Central.

Looking to extend a winning streak to six games against the Red Sox for the first time since June 13-August 10, 1994, the Twins turn to their ace. Santana (18-5, 2.77 ERA) has gone 9-0 with a 2.95 ERA since the All-Star break, improving to 39-3 in the second half over the last four years.

Santana, who leads the majors in wins, ERA and strikeouts (237) as he guns for a second career AL Cy Young Award, turned in one of his more dominating efforts of the season against Boston on June 13. The lefthander struck out a season-high 13 batters, including the first five he faced, in eight outstanding innings of a game the Twins won in the 12th, 5-2.

In his last start Friday, Santana gave up four runs - three earned - and seven hits in eight innings of an eventual 5-4 loss to Cleveland. It was the first time Minnesota lost in the 13 second-half games started by Santana.

Josh Beckett (15-10, 5.02) counters for the Red Sox, who mathematically were eliminated from the AL East race with Wednesday's setback. On the heels of an eight-start stretch in which he went 1-5 with a 5.64 ERA, Beckett allowed two runs and four hits in six innings of a 5-2 win in the first game of Saturday's doubleheader against the New York Yankees.

After winning all five first-half decisions at Fenway Park, Beckett has gone 1-5 with a 6.98 ERA in eight home starts since the All-Star break. His last win here came against Kansas City on July 19, the same day he agreed to terms on a three-year contract extension with Boston.

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