Morneau's bat helps Santana to Opening Day win

Hero: Morneau's performance at the plate -- going 3-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs -- helped Santana to his 17th straight regular-season win at the Metrodome.

Figure this: Morneau and Torii Hunter hit back-to-back jacks to lead off the second and mark a franchise first on Opening Day.

Did you see that?: Animal control to the Metrodome, please. Prior to the game, a mouse scurried up the press box wall and made its way onto
the front row table before hiding under a reporter's game notes. The mouse stayed long enough to scare several writers out of their seats.

-- ESPN.com news services

Twins 7, Orioles 4

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Minnesota's Cy Young winner wasn't at his best. The MVP certainly was, hitting a home run on the second pitch he saw.

Though the Twins prefer not to single out any of their stars, they have plenty of them these days.

Justin Morneau went 3-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs, helping the Twins survive an underwhelming outing by Johan Santana in a 7-4 victory over the Baltimore Orioles in Monday's season opener.

"We play as a unit here. Everybody just tries to do their thing," manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Torii Hunter also drove in two runs, following Morneau's shot in the second inning with a homer of his own on Erik Bedard's next delivery.

That, plus a three-run fifth that ended Bedard's night, was enough for Santana to run his regular-season Metrodome winning streak to 17 games despite a below-standard performance.

"These guys picked me up big time, and we were able to get back," Santana said. "That's the kind of team that we have."

Miguel Tejada's homer was one of five extra-base hits allowed by Santana, who struck out six and walked two. The two-time AL Cy Young selection allowed four runs in six innings, and the Orioles made solid contact against him several times.

He lost the lead briefly when Aubrey Huff, Jay Gibbons and Corey Patterson each hit RBI doubles in the fourth. Tejada hit a home run to straightaway center field to start the sixth, but Minnesota's bullpen held off Baltimore. Joe Nathan pitched the ninth for the save.

One reason the Twins began the season with more questions about their rotation than usual is the retirement of Brad Radke, who tossed a low-and-inside pitch to Gardenhire with the ceremonial first ball. Gardenhire jogged to the mound to hug the right-hander, who was Minnesota's Opening Day starter for nine of his 12 seasons.

Baltimore has just as many unproven starters behind Bedard, who gave up an RBI single to Jeff Cirillo in the fourth and unraveled in the fifth. Luis Castillo came home on a passed ball, Morneau drove in a run with a single before being thrown out at second base, and Hunter doubled in another run.

"I threw some good pitches and I threw some bad pitches. They hit both," said Bedard, who gave up 10 hits, two walks and six runs in 4 2/3 innings while striking out two.

He started slow last year, leaving a loss at Minnesota on June 11 with a 5-6 record and 5.69 ERA. He rebounded, however, with a stellar second half and finished 15-11 with a 3.76 ERA.

"He lost his command. That happens," catcher Paul Bako said. "The way he threw the ball lights-out all through spring, unfortunately he was probably due for that."

Bedard surrendered only 16 homers in a career-high 196-plus innings last season, an average of less than one long ball every other start. But the left-hander was taken deep twice in the second, the first by a fellow Canadian when Morneau -- who was voted the league's MVP last year -- socked a low-and-away pitch to left-center to lead off.

Hunter went the other way on the next offering, sending the ball sailing above the right-field wall for a quick 2-0 lead that sent the sellout crowd of 48,711 to a standing cheer.

This outing was a bad sign for Baltimore, which is optimistic about improving in a difficult division and chasing the franchise's first winning season since 1997.

"He's our ace. We're counting on him, and he'll be back," Bako said.

The oft-maligned Metrodome turned 25 years old. The place shows plenty of wear, from the graying ceiling to the mouse that scampered through the press box in the afternoon.

But it still gets very loud here, giving the local team a big boost. Minnesota hasn't lost a regular-season home start by Santana since Aug. 1, 2005 -- a span of 24 games.

"He's Johan. He finds a way to get it done," Gardenhire said.

Game notes
Morneau is 8-for-14 in his career against Bedard. "I don't know if it's extra focus or what, because you know his stuff is so good that if you're not at your best, he's going to get you out," Morneau said. ... Bako replaced Ramon Hernandez, who has a strained left oblique muscle. Bako was dazed after a jarring home-plate collision in fourth that got Morneau out but required a bandage on his chin. "He plays the game hard, the same way I do. I'd expect myself or any of my teammates to do the same thing," said Bako, who was still bleeding afterward. ... Hall of Fame radio announcer Herb Carneal, who died Sunday of congestive heart failure at age 83, was honored with several tributes. Carneal called Orioles games from 1957-61 and was a play-by-play voice for the Twins for the next 45 seasons.