Santana shines, leads Twins to 4-0 win over Athletics
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) It's been a rough go of it for Ervin Santana in his first season-and-a-half with Minnesota.
On Wednesday, he finally resembled the pitcher the Twins thought they were getting when they signed him to a $55 million, four-year deal.
Santana struck out eight and walked none in a two-hitter that led the Twins over the Oakland Athletics 4-0.
Santana (3-7) needed just 100 pitches for his eighth shutout and 15th complete game, helping the Twins take two of three from the A's. Joe Mauer had three hits and an RBI.
''Every time you do it with a new team, it's even better,'' said Santana, who was suspended for 80 games last year after testing positive for a banned performance-enhancing substance. ''It builds more confidence for me and for the team.''
Sonny Gray (3-8) gave up one run, six hits and four walks in six innings, losing his seventh straight decision, the longest active skid in the American League. Billy Butler's two-out double in the fifth and Stephen Vogt's leadoff single in the eighth were Oakland's lone hits.
''I haven't had many decisions in a year and a half of letting a guy go out there to try get a shutout,'' Twins manager Paul Molitor said. ''But he was dominant.''
Minnesota got off to a historically bad start and quickly got buried in the AL Central. But the Twins have won four of their last five games and each of their last three series at home.
The bleary-eyed clubs were back at it on Wednesday less than 12 hours after finishing a rain-delayed game that started at 9:52 p.m.
''I know it was a long night last night,'' Santana said. ''I just came today and tried to put zeros on the board.''
Both teams appeared to be swinging heavy bats, and Minnesota stranded 12, going 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position.
Santana frustrated Oakland's hitters all afternoon. Josh Reddick slammed his bat in anger after popping out to the catcher in the fourth inning and Khris Davis did the same after a strikeout in the seventh.
''We had some good at-bats off him at times and we had some non-competitive at-bats,'' Vogt said. ''When a pitcher has his stuff and you don't have consistent at-bats against him it's going to be hard to win. He was very, very good today.''
As sharp as Santana was, he didn't have much cushion for most of the afternoon because the Twins kept leaving runners on base against Gray. They left nine on in the first six innings before finally scratching two more runs across.
Danny Santana had three hits, including a double, a triple and a run scored for Minnesota.
It was Santana's first complete game since a one-hitter for the Angels against Arizona on June 16, 2012. It was the first shutout by a Twins pitcher since Andrew Albers in 2013.
Twins All-Star Eduardo Nunez stole his 20th base this season in the third inning. That made him the first Twins player to swipe at least 20 bases before the All-Star break since Carlos Gomez had 21 in 2008.
Oakland's bullpen entered with a 5.63 ERA in its 22 games. Opponents were hitting .312 off of A's relievers, and they had another rough day on Wednesday.
Marc Rzepczynski was charged with two runs on one hit and didn't record an out in the seventh inning. And John Axford didn't give him any help when he walked Max Kepler with the bases loaded and gave up a sacrifice fly to Eddie Rosario to give Santana some breathing room.
Athletics: RHP Fernando Rodriguez was played on the disabled list after an MRI revealed a strained rotator cuff. Manager Bob Melvin said there is no timetable for a return, but he would not need surgery.
Twins: SS Eduardo Escobar was available after missing the last two games with a strained hamstring.
Athletics: LHP Rich Hill (8-3, 2.31) will start the series opener at Houston on Thursday.
Twins: Minnesota opens a four-game series in Texas on Thursday, sending RHP Tyler Duffey (4-6, 4.62) to the mound against RHP Chi Chi Gonzalez (0-1, 9.53).