OAKLAND, Calif. -- Johan Santana kept retiring batter after batter, hoping Minnesota's offense would eventually come up with a big hit.
Oakland's Kirk Saarloos finally made a mistake, and Justin Morneau took advantage.
Santana pitched eight innings of two-hit ball, Morneau hit a two-run homer in the eighth to spoil the chance of three straight shutouts by Oakland and the Twins beat the Athletics 2-1 on Friday night.
"It was a good night," Santana said. "We were able to battle through it and stay in the game. I was hoping somebody would hit a good ball. That's the way I do it: I try to stay consistent."
Santana gave up both hits in the second inning. After Bobby Kielty's two-out single, Santana retired the final 19 batters he faced before Joe Nathan finished for his seventh save in as many chances.
Santana (5-4), the 2004 AL Cy Young Award winner and an All-Star last season, won for the first time in four starts since beating the White Sox on May 12. He struck out nine and didn't allow a walk.
"He's won a Cy Young for a reason," Oakland's Jason Kendall said.
The A's had gone 25 innings without allowing a run, and Saarloos appeared in position to follow the feats of Joe Blanton and Barry Zito who had shutouts before him, but Morneau sent a 1-2 pitch over the right-field fence for his 11th homer of the season.
Morneau was pleased he could do something to help Santana, who has struggled to get enough run support.
"He pitches like that every game," Morneau said. "We wasted one of those earlier in the year. He threw great and you don't want to give a guy too many losses when he pitches like that."
Frank Thomas homered for the third straight game to give him 461 for his career, but the A's missed a chance at their first three-game winning streak since five straight victories from May 14-19.
Thomas homered in three straight games for the 20th time in his career and the first since doing it June 13-17 last year for the Chicago White Sox.
The Big Hurt is finding his stroke after a slow start with his new team. He connected for his 13th homer of the year leading off the second inning, giving him 1,495 RBI to tie him with Gary Sheffield for 44th place all-time. In addition, with his 922nd extra-base hit, he moved past Harold Baines and Goose Goslin into sole possession of 42nd place.
"He's hot," Santana said. "He's a great hitter. He's been swinging the bat pretty well lately. Make a mistake and you pay for it."
Santana, who has gone seven or more innings in each of his last nine starts, had no qualms about not returning for the ninth. That's because Nathan hasn't allowed a hit in his seven saves.
Saarloos (2-4), who could be headed back to the bullpen once the A's get injured starters Rich Harden and Esteban Loaiza back, lost his third straight start and fourth in five. The right-hander retired 16 straight during one stretch before Nick Punto's one-out single in the sixth.
Saarloos, who had walked 12 batters in his previous two outings, allowed a walk to Punto to start the game followed by a single to Luis Castillo. Joe Mauer then grounded into a double play to start a stretch of eight straight groundballs by the Twins, who weren't very patient at the plate in the early innings.
Mauer went 0-for-4 and had his career-high 11-game hitting streak snapped.
It was another quick game at 2 hours, 3 minutes after the A's won Thursday night's series opener in 1:57. Oakland had its game go 2:07 Wednesday against Kansas City.
"Another two-hour ballgame," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, whose team is 9-3 in one-run games. "This time on the right side for us. Two great pitching performances. Johan was super."
Thomas has 47 homers and 129 RBI in 165 career games against the Twins - and only Reggie Jackson with 51 has more homers against Minnesota. Thomas is batting .375 (6-for-16) with two homers against Santana. ... Seven of Thomas' homers this year have led off an inning. ... Terry Tiffee got the start at designated hitter for the Twins after being recalled from Triple-A Rochester. ... Torii Hunter grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to end the seventh in which replays showed he was safe. Gardenhire hustled out to argue with first-base umpire Travis Reininger. ... A's RHP reliever Jay Witasick, on the 15-day DL since April 14 with a sprained left ankle, pitched two innings in a rehab assignment for Class-A Stockton at Modesto. He struck out four and allowed one hit.