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05/23/07 1:45 AM ET

Twins give Rangers' Loe sinking feeling

Texas starter regrets two pitches, drops fourth straight decision

ARLINGTON -- Kameron Loe lost to the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night.

It was hardly of comfort to him that it took the reigning American League Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player winners to beat him.

"I got beat on two pitches," Loe said. "Other than that ... two pitches. I wish I could have them back."

He can't.

Loe gave up two home runs to Justin Morneau -- both on 3-1 counts -- while Johan Santana held the Rangers to one run over seven innings in pitching the Twins to a 7-1 victory at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

Santana gave up just four hits, including Sammy Sosa's 598th career home run, and struck out a season-high 13 batters. The loss left the Rangers 10 games behind the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the AL West.

"Everybody knows who Santana is," Sosa said. "He's one of the greatest pitchers in the American League. He pitched very well tonight. He didn't make many mistakes ... only one. He pitches like he never gives up."

Relievers Pat Neshek and Joe Nathan combined for five strikeouts in the final two innings, giving the Twins a club-record 18 on the night. Rangers outfielders Victor Diaz, Kevin Mahar and Nelson Cruz were especially vulnerable. They were a combined 0-for-11 with nine strikeouts.

"Santana had his 'K' stuff working," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Mainly he had that good changeup. His arm action is so good, you think you're swinging at a fastball. We weren't trying to swing at stuff like that. He's just that good. You tell yourself, 'OK, I'm not going to swing at the changeup,' and then he pops the fastball. He makes everything look the same."

Sosa's home run gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead, and that was the score when Michael Cuddyer started the Twins' fourth by reaching on an infield hit. Morneau then worked the count to 3-1 before Loe let a sinker get too high and too much of the plate. Morneau hit it to deep center field for a two-run home run.

Morneau struck again in the fifth, this time after a one-out single by Luis Castillo and a two-out walk to Cuddyer that really bothered Loe.

"I knew Morneau was coming up, and Cuddyer was a chance to get out of the inning," Loe said. "I wasn't trying to be too fine or make a perfect pitch. I just lost my control for a minute."

It cost him. Once again, Loe fell behind Morneau, and this time he tried to throw a fastball inside. Again, Loe missed his location. And again, Morneau hit it into the center-field seats to give the Twins a 5-1 lead.

"That's the guy that you don't want to get you," Washington said. "A guy like that is going to make you pay. That's why he's the MVP."

Loe admitted that he should have pitched around Morneau.

"In hindsight, I probably should have," Loe said. "It's a funny thing about hindsight."

Those were the only runs that Loe gave up in six innings, but he is now 0-4 with a 7.60 ERA in his last six starts. His last victory came in his first start of the season on April 21 against the Oakland Athletics.

"I feel like I'm so close," Loe said. "Two pitches that I could have avoided if I was a little more careful. But I think I'm really close to where I want to be."

Washington thinks Loe is close enough. There are no plans to take Loe out of the rotation, mainly because the Rangers aren't even sure who their fifth starter will be the next time they need somebody.

"He has been getting us the innings we have been looking for," Washington said. "We're not pulling the plug. He's pitching well. We're going to give him a chance to figure it out. In tough situations, he just has to start making some pitches. When he does that, I think things will change."

Said Loe: "He's shown confidence in me, and I won't let him down. He's not going to be wrong sending me out there every fifth day."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.