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HOU@KC: Santana fans six over seven in 100th victory

KANSAS CITY -- The way things had been going, maybe Ervin Santana figured he'd have to pitch a perfect game to get his 100th career victory.

Or maybe a complete game shutout, like he did back in 2005 to get victory No. 1.

Santana did neither and he really didn't need to because the Kansas City hitters stirred up more runs for him than they had all season, and the Royals beat the Houston Astros, 7-2, on Saturday night. After six straight starts without it, victory No. 100 and the commemorative game ball was in Santana's right hand.

"It means a lot to me, a dream come true. It's just something that's very exciting for me," Santana said.

It was also the Royals' fourth in a row, matching their longest winning streak of the season, achieved twice before.

For a while on a pleasant 81-degree evening at Kauffman Stadium, Santana looked like he had the stuff for either a perfect game or a shutout.

The 28,055 fans watched him mow down the first seven batters he faced before Matt Dominguez grounded a single to center. With two out in the sixth, Santana had retired 17 of the 18 batters he'd faced. But by then, he also had the unaccustomed luxury of a 6-0 lead.

"When you've got a lead like that, you can pitch more comfortably and you don't have to worry that much about what the situation is going to be, so that was good," Santana said.

The Royals had not scored more than four runs in any of Santana's previous 11 starts this year. Despite his 4-5 record, his ERA is 2.99.

"Any time you get a little breathing room, even though it's two runs, you've still got breathing room," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "You can go out and make a mistake and not have to worry about it. But he was dead-on this game tonight."

With two out in the sixth, the Astros got to Santana for three straight hits and one run. Then, in the seventh, Chris Carter belted a home run to right field.

That was Santana's last inning and he gave up just five hits with a hit batter, but no walks and six strikeouts. He threw 96 pitches. Right-hander J.C. Gutierrez took over and worked two scoreless innings to wrap it up.

The Royals jumped on veteran left-hander Erik Bedard for two runs in the first inning. Alex Gordon was getting a day of rest, so David Lough led off and singled to center, taking second on Brandon Barnes' boot, one of three Astros errors. Salvador Perez's single got Lough home and Eric Hosmer's double scored Perez.

They ganged up on Bedard for three more runs in the fourth and chased him with another run in the fifth.

"We're starting to swing the bats pretty good," Yost said.

The Royals had a balanced attack with 10 hits and Hosmer had a perfect night -- two hits including a double, two walks, two runs and an RBI.

"We got the lead early," Hosmer said. "That's what we've been trying to do, get these guys some run support so they can go out there and just throw their stuff, and see if they can hit it. And Erv's stuff today was real nasty and he just put it on cruise control and let Guty take care of the rest."

Santana became the 10th Dominican-born pitcher to achieve 100 victories. Hall of Famer Juan Marichal tops the list with 243 wins.

The first 96 victories for Santana came during his eight seasons with the Angels. His first win came on May 23, 2005, over the White Sox, 4-0, as he went the distance at Angel Stadium. He's had 85 losses.

"It's a long process," Santana said. "A lot of bad outings, a lot of good outings. It's here so I have to enjoy it. Just keep it up, keep working hard, don't worry about this one, just get the next one."

Santana was 3-1 after his first five starts this year. But he had not won since April 27.

From the first inning on Saturday night, he had the Astros guessing.

"He was commanding his fastball extremely well," Yost said. "Good fastball up to 94 miles an hour. Good slider that he kept down on the outside part of the plate to righties, good back-foot slider to lefties. Good speed on his breaking ball. But command more than anything else. Just looked dominant at times."

He had some defensive help, too. Shortstop Alcides Escobar ranged to the right field side of second base for Trevor Crowe's grounder, cut it off, spun around and threw him out.

The Royals celebrated Santana's victory in the clubhouse although the milestone significance was news to some of his teammates.

"Most of us, I think, just found out tonight," Hosmer said. "But 100 wins, that's unbelievable. It's a tough league as you know and to get 100 wins, that means you've had a long career in the big leagues and it's a special day when one of your teammates gets something like that."

Santana knew exactly what he'd do with the game ball.

"I'll just give it to my mom," he said. "It's a special ball for her."

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