OAKLAND -- Trevor Plouffe hit a grand slam off Sonny Gray, and Brian Dozier also homered against his fellow All-Star to help the Twins top the A's, 5-0, in Friday night's series opener at the Coliseum.
Dozier led off the game with his 20th home run of the season, and Gray would go on to retire 15 of his next 17 batters -- including 13 in a row -- before running into trouble in his sixth and final inning. The right-hander issued two of his three walks in the frame, and both resulted in runs when Plouffe sent his second career grand slam into the left-field bleachers.
Twins right-hander Ervin Santana, making just his third start of the season after serving an 80-game suspension for the use of performance-enhancing drugs, held the A's to five hits over 7 2/3 shutout innings to earn his first win of 2015. The veteran improved to 15-6 with a 2.03 ERA in 27 career starts against Oakland.
"It was kind of a tall order coming out here on the road and facing Sonny," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "He kind of settled in after Dozier got us off to a great start. His roll continues. But Ervin was sharp. He didn't have the velocity that we've seen him have, but it seemed like he was really focused on his location."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Plouffe is grand: Plouffe's big blast in the sixth came on an 0-2 slider up in the zone from Gray and gave the Twins some breathing room after Dozier's leadoff homer in the first. Plouffe hit his first career grand slam on May 3 against the White Sox. More >
"I was just trying to put one in the air to get the run in," Plouffe said. "He came back with a slider and to be honest, I thought it was a sac fly with the way Zobrist went after it. I think it was a little wind-aided out there."
Slammed: Gray had not given up a grand slam in 411 career innings before surrendering one to Plouffe, which broke open the game in a 38-pitch sixth inning. It also marked the first time this season Gray allowed more than one home run, having surrendered five total in his 18 previous starts, and just the second time in his career. The only other time he's allowed as many as two long balls in an outing was Aug. 22, 2014, against the Angels. More >
"I just wasn't very sharp," Gray said. "I even knew during the middle innings I'd have to locate better tonight because I felt my stuff wasn't that good. There in the sixth it just kind of caught up with me."
Santana bounces back: After giving up six runs over four innings against the Tigers in his last start, Santana was much sharper against the A's. The right-hander lowered his ERA to 3.66 in three starts. More >
"I think it was big for him and big for us. We know what kind of pitcher he is. He's got the track record and got everything we want in pitcher. He throws strikes, he works fast, he holds runners well. He's a big boost to our rotation." -- Plouffe on Santana
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The Twins improved to 50-40 with the win, becoming the sixth team to reach the 50-win mark this season. Minnesota didn't get its 50th win until Aug. 3 last year.
WHAT'S NEXT Twins: Right-hander Phil Hughes starts the second game of the series on Saturday at 8:05 p.m. CT. Hughes has been pitching better recently, posting a 3.40 ERA over his last seven outings heading into the All-Star break.
A's: Left-hander Scott Kazmir, who is 3-1 with a 1.41 ERA in his last six starts, gets the ball for Saturday's middle matchup of a three-game set with the Twins at the Coliseum.
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat and listen to his podcast.
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.