MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Ervin Santana is cruising, Miguel Sano is crushing and the Minnesota Twins are quickly putting last year’s misery behind them.
Santana struck out seven in six shutout innings and Brian Dozier hit two of Minnesota’s six home runs to lead the Twins to a 9-1 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday night.
Santana (5-0) lowered his ERA to 0.66 for the season and has allowed one run or fewer and gone at least six innings in all six of his starts. Fernando Valenzuela is the only pitcher to do it more when he went seven straight to start the 1981 season.
Sano hit a towering shot for his eighth homer of the season and Jason Castro, Byron Buxton and Joe Mauer also went deep for the Twins (13-11), who have won three in a row and five of their last six.
“We hit it out almost every other at-bat,” Santana said with a smile.
Sonny Gray (0-1) made his season debut for the Athletics, giving up four runs and five hits and striking out four in six innings. Yonder Alonso homered for the A’s, who struck out 11 times, the seventh time in the last eight games they have reached double-digit punchouts.
Gray missed the first month of the season with a strained right shoulder, but really had his fastball humming to start the game. He reached as high as 96 mph on the radar gun when he got Buxton swinging in the third inning.
“My body feels good,” Gray said. “I felt like I threw the ball OK. Just three hitters in a row was the story of the game. It kind of felt like once they put up that three-spot it was going to be an uphill battle the rest of the way.”
Dozier followed with a solo homer to left field, Max Kepler walked and Sano, who was named AL player of the week Monday after hitting .524 with three homers and 11 RBIs in five games, got all of a 95 mph heater to make it 3-0.
The 466-foot blast was just the second home run in Target Field history to clear the black batter’s eye behind the center field wall and land in the restaurant right above it.
“There are just a very, very small percentage of players who could ever dream about hitting a ball like that,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “And he seems to have that capability on an almost nightly basis here as of late.”
Buxton and Dozier went back-to-back in the seventh inning, and Mauer added his first of the year to break the game open.
Athletics: Manager Bob Melvin said LHP Sean Manaea (shoulder) will throw a bullpen session in the next day or two and is on track to return when he is eligible to come off the disabled list May 7. ... RHP John Axford (shoulder) threw a bullpen on Tuesday, the first of several before he begins a minor league rehab assignment.
Twins: LHP Glen Perkins rejoined the team from Florida after being frustrated with how the rehab process was going with his surgically repaired left shoulder. Perkins threw a bullpen session and will continue to work with Twins trainers. ... LHP Ryan O’Rourke had Tommy John surgery on Tuesday.
Santana is one of just three pitchers — joining Aaron Harang in 2014 and Pedro Martinez in 1997 — to start the season with at least five straight games allowing one run or fewer in a start of at least six innings in the last 20 years. It’s only been done 11 times since 1913.
A’s third baseman Trevor Plouffe spent the first 12 years of his baseball career in the Twins organization before signing with the A’s this winter. He went 1 for 4 in his first game at Target Field as a visitor.
Athletics: RHP Kendall Graveman (2-1, 2.25) will start Game 2 against the Twins on Wednesday. Graveman will be making his second start since coming off of the disabled list.
Twins: LHP Hector Santiago (2-1, 2.43) will start on Wednesday. He will be activated from the bereavement list after leaving the team to attend his grandmother’s funeral.
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