Ervin spins 2-hit shutout to lead Twins vs. A's

Ervin spins 2-hit shutout to lead Twins vs. A's

MINNEAPOLIS -- Ervin Santana was absolutely dominant against the A's, outdueling Sonny Gray by throwing a two-hit shutout to lead the Twins to a 4-0 win on Wednesday afternoon at Target Field. It gave Minnesota its second straight series win.

Santana, who struck out eight and walked none, was perfect until giving up a two-out double to Billy Butler in the fifth inning. He also allowed a single to Stephen Vogt to open the eighth, but he promptly got Butler to ground into a double play. It was Santana's eighth shutout of his career, and his first since June 16, 2012, while with the Angels. He faced one batter over the minimum, and needed exactly 100 pitches to get the shutout.

"There were maybe a couple minor storylines, but the big one jumps out at you," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "I haven't had many decisions the last year and a half to have a guy go back out there and get a shutout. But he was dominant. He kept putting zeros up here."

Gray was also solid, but he had to pitch out of several jams, as he allowed a baserunner to reach in each of his six innings, which drove his pitch count up. Gray allowed one run, scattering six hits and four walks. The only run he surrendered came on an RBI double from Joe Mauer in the fifth.

"He was outstanding," A's All-Star catcher Vogt said. "They did a great job fouling pitches off. They strung together really good at-bats, especially the first three innings, making him work and not allowing him to go deeper than he probably should have in this game. Sonny was very good."

The Twins tacked on two insurance runs in the seventh against reliever John Axford after loading the bases with one out. Max Kepler drew a bases-loaded walk before Eddie Rosario added a sacrifice fly to left. Minnesota scored again in the eighth on a sac fly from Eduardo Nunez to score Danny Santana, who tripled to open the inning. Santana and Mauer each had three hits, with Santana picking up a single, double and triple.

Santana's triple in the 8th

Mauer gets Twins on the board: The Twins had chances to score early, but they couldn't get a run across until the fifth, when Robbie Grossman opened the inning with a walk and came around to score on a double to left-center from Mauer. It was the first RBI for Mauer since June 15.

Mauer's RBI double

"Joe had a good day and drove in that first run," Molitor said. "Danny also had a good day. But you really can't say enough about the way Ervin threw the ball."

Walk this way: Gray's walk to Grossman in the fifth was his fourth of the day, tying a season high. The right-hander mostly did well in working out of jams, stranding seven baserunners in his first four innings, but his propensity for the walk Wednesday cost him in that inning. Gray has issued 34 walks in just 90 2/3 innings this season, averaging out to 3.4 per nine innings. That mark was at 2.6 last season. More >

Gray gives up one run in six

Santana dazzles: Santana notched the first shutout for the Twins this season and the first for Minnesota since Andrew Albers threw a two-hit shutout against the Indians on Aug. 12, 2013. Santana, who has been subject to trade rumors, has been heating up recently, as he is 2-0 with a 1.63 ERA over his past four starts.

Santana shuts out the A's

"When I was behind in the count, I was able to throw offspeed for strikes, and that helped me a lot today," said Santana, who has changed the grip of his two-seam fastball. "It was a long night last night, but we got the win. So I came in today trying to throw up zeros and not think about it. So it was good." More >

Offense missing: The A's scored just seven runs total in three games in Minnesota and have been held to three runs or fewer in five of their past six games. Prior to that, their bats couldn't be contained, plating at least six runs in seven consecutive contests -- showcasing the inconsistency that has plagued this team all season.

"[Santana] didn't throw fastballs up in the zone, for one," Vogt said. "He was locating his fastball down at the knees and working his offspeed. We had some pretty good at-bats against him at times, and some not-so-good ones. When a pitcher has his stuff and you don't have very consistent at-bats against him, it's going to be very hard to win. He was very, very good today. "

"It was one of those games where you're challenged as a professional to be out there and give it your best effort even when your body is telling it's being pushed a little bit. So to win two games in situations we're not usually accustomed to was a good sign. We had a good homestand and had a chance to win all six games." -- Molitor, on the win after the Twins and A's didn't finish Tuesday's game until 1 a.m. CT

All-Star Nunez stole his 20th base of the season in the third inning, becoming the first Twins player with at least 20 stolen bases before the All-Star break since Carlos Gomez had 21 prior to the break in 2008.

A's: Oakland heads to Houston for four games with the Astros ahead of the All-Star break. Left-hander Rich Hill takes an 8-3 record and 2.31 ERA into Thursday's 5:10 p.m. PT series opener at Minute Maid Park.

Twins: Minnesota heads to Texas for a four-game series against the Rangers that begins on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. CT. Tyler Duffey (4-6, 5.62 ERA) starts for Minnesota, and he has been pitching better recently, winning his past two starts with a 3.21 ERA.

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Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast.

Jane Lee has covered the A's for since 2010.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.