Ervin Santana put manager Paul Molitor in an awkward spot Wednesday.
Molitor checked on the righthander after the sixth inning to make sure he wasn't getting tired. Santana said he was good. Molitor did it again after the seventh and eighth innings, too. Both times, Santana said he was fine.
Molitor is not used to repeatedly asking his starting pitcher such questions. But Santana was at the height of his powers, baffling Oakland hitters with a two-hitter while leading the Twins to a 4-0 matinee victory at Target Field.
Santana's first complete-game shutout for the Twins also is the first shutout thrown by a Twins starter since Andrew Albers on Aug. 12, 2013 against Cleveland — that's 453 games ago. Santana didn't walk a batter while striking out eight.
"I haven't had many decisions in a year and a half of letting a guy go out there to try to get a shutout," Molitor said. "He was dominant. Early on we had trouble scoring runs, but he kept putting the zeros up."
Santana's eighth career shutout required only 100 pitches (66 strikes). He got through two innings on seven pitches, and faced only one batter over the minimum of 27 thanks to a double play in the eighth.
"Everything was working very good," Santana said, "and I was on the same page with [catcher] Juan Centeno the whole game."
Now 3-7 with a 4.06 ERA, Santana could land on the radar of more teams looking for pitching before the Aug. 1 nonwaiver trade deadline. Texas is one team that recently has scouted him.
"That's why I don't even read the newspaper," Santana said, "because I don't want to think about it. I try to take it one day at a time. If it happens, it happens. If not, it's not."
Oakland could not square anything up Wednesday, and Santana piled up hitless innings until two outs in the fifth, when Billy Butler lined a double off the left field wall for the first Oakland hit of the game. Butler was stranded at second after Yonder Alonzo flew out to end the inning.
Thanks to altering his grip, Santana threw fastballs of 91-93 miles per hour with nasty sink. He still could reach back to throw 95 mph when he needed, like when he struck out Jed Lowrie in the seventh. Khris Davis came to the plate two batters later and struck out on three pitches. He slammed his bat to the ground in frustration.
The Twins' runs eventually arrived. Joe Mauer hit an RBI double in the fifth for the first run. In the seventh, Max Kepler drew a bases-loaded walk and Eddie Rosario hit a sacrifice fly. Eduardo Nunez added a sacrifice fly in the eighth to make it 4-0 — just enough production for a team that was 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position Wednesday. Both Mauer and Danny Santana had three hits.
The announced crowd of 27,657 stood in the ninth inning as Santana finished his gem. He got Marcus Semien to fly out to center and Tyler Ladendorf to pop out to short before Billy Burns grounded to short to end the game.
It took seven pitches to get through the final inning of the game to finish with an even 100.
"You can't say enough about the way Ervin threw the ball," Molitor said. "I thought he had a lot of trust in all his pitches. He threw that slider early for strikes, then he put a little more bite on it when he wanted to get an out."