Santana looks sharp in first win with Twins

Right-hander outduels Gray in third start of season

Santana looks sharp in first win with Twins

OAKLAND -- It was exactly the kind of outing the Twins were looking for from right-hander Ervin Santana to open the second half of the season.

Santana, making just his third start of the year after being suspended 80 games for the use of a performance-enhancing drug, was sharp against the A's, scattering five hits over 7 2/3 scoreless innings to get his first win with the Twins in a 5-0 victory. Santana outdueled A's ace Sonny Gray, and improved to 15-6 with a 2.03 ERA in 27 career starts against Oakland.

"I think he's prideful and knows what transpired the first half of the season," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "He might not say it, but I think after the first couple games he was anxious to get a win and contribute. He pitched really well his first start but tonight he was matched up against Gray and stood tall and got his first win as a Twin."

Santana was coming off a rough outing against the Tigers, as he gave up six runs over four innings on July 10. On Friday, he looked more like he did in his first outing, when he limited the Royals to two runs on three hits over eight innings.

Santana's velocity was a bit down and he registered just one strikeout, but he said he was able to command his fastball, slider and changeup to make up for it.

"It feels great," said Santana, who was given a game ball to mark his first win with the Twins. "I didn't have the velocity today but I was able to locate the ball where I wanted to. I was able to keep the hitters off-balance and I think that's more important for me right now."

Santana ran into trouble in the third, loading the bases with two outs but was able to get out of the jam by getting Ben Zobrist to pop out to first to end the inning. He exited in the eighth with runners at the corners with two outs, but left-hander Brian Duensing got Jake Smolinski to fly out to center.

The Twins will be counting on him to deliver more in the second half after his long layoff.

"I think it was big for him and big for us," said third baseman Trevor Plouffe, who hit a grand slam in the sixth. "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."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.