While Twins ace Ervin Santana had a rough start in the Twins' 5-1 loss in the first game of their doubleheader with the Rockies on Thursday, giving up five runs on six hits with four walks and three strikeouts over seven innings, there's still no question that he is off to one of the best early season starts in Twins history.

Santana is now sitting at 6-2 with a 2.07 ERA, which is good for third in the American League, with 44 strikeouts in 61 innings. This loss was very similar to his only other defeat of the season when he allowed six runs on five hits over six innings against Boston at home on May 7.

Still Santana said that for the most part he felt the game hinged on the key third inning when he allowed three runs on two walks and three singles.

"I was behind the count for the most part but other than that, after that third inning, I regrouped myself and just tried to throw strikes," he said.

After the third inning Santana was solid as he allowed a walk, a hit and one run over the final four frames.

He said that getting behind in the count in that third inning made a big difference.

"Yeah especially the way they have been swinging the bat they're very aggressive right now, and everything is going their way," he said about the first-place Rockies. "Every time you're behind in the count something is going to happen in favor of the other team."

Struggling to score

And while Santana had a rough start in Game 1 of the doubleheader, the Twins were able to break a three-game losing streak in the nightcap after another great start from the young Jose Berrios. He won his second consecutive game, allowing just two hits while striking out 11 over 7⅔ scoreless frames in a 2-0 victory. This comes after an impressive performance in a 4-1 victory over Cleveland on Sunday, one in which he gave up just two hits and struck out four and walked one in 7⅔ innings.

The Twins continue to struggle to score runs, stranding nine runners in the first game. The Rockies left just three and were 3-for-5 with runners in scoring position.

"Well, we're trying to score runs, but it was tough today," he said. "It was tough, especially the way their pitcher was doing his job. It was tough."

Did Santana feel like facing a National League team made a big difference?

"Not at all, not at all, it's a different team and they're very aggressive, but I don't think about it," he said. "I'm just trying to make a good pitch every time."

Manager Paul Molitor talked after the game about Santana's early struggles but still said his ability to pitch deep into the ballgame makes a big difference.

"It was you know, a good thing for us he was able to kind of minimize our bullpen usage there," Molitor said. "We had a little trouble early, had a couple of calls that didn't go his way. I think there was a little frustration there. The two-out homer in the third inning, they put together a rally — which started with a leadoff walk — and his command has been a little off I think his last couple starts, but he's trying to find ways to pitch through that."

In Santana's first five starts he had just 10 walks but has now posted 15 in his past four starts, with his next action coming against Baltimore next week.

No need to trade

When the Twins signed Santana to a four-year, $54 million deal before the 2015 season it was the richest free agent signing in franchise history. And while the team and Santana were shocked when he was suspended for the first 81 games of that season after failing a performance-enhancing drug test, he has done nothing but thrive since then.

He has gone 20-18 with a 3.41 ERA over 350 ⅓ innings while striking out 275 and allowing just 301 hits.

And because of that success, and the Twins struggles over the past two seasons, there has been a lot of talk about trading Santana. He is under team control through 2019, with the team having the option on the last year of his deal.

Twins Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey talked recently to FanRag's John Perrotto about why he didn't move Santana, which is looking very smart as the Twins remain in first place in the American League Central.

"We felt it was really important to have that anchor for the rotation," he told Perrotto. "You need that pitcher who you can count on to give you a good outing and pitch deep into games almost every time out. We felt we had that in Ervin, and whatever we might get back in a trade wouldn't equal the value of what he brings to us."


• Former Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway and current linebacker Eric Kendricks have raised a lot of money for charity recently. Greenway's Lead the Way Foundation recently hosted a charity golf tournament at Wayzata Country Club and raised $135,000 to help build a handicap-accessible playground at the University of Minnesota children's hospital. Kendricks teamed with RBA Consulting to present a check for $20,000 to the Sheridan Story, a local organization focused on helping end children's hunger.

• Twins General Manager Thad Levine has a background with the Rockies organization having worked there from 1999-2004 in their baseball operations department. ... The Twins are off to a rough start in interleague play with two losses in three games to Colorado, and they went 8-12 in interleague last season playing the NL East. This season they're playing mostly the NL West, with three games with Colorado, three at San Francisco, three at the L.A. Dodgers, two at San Diego, two at Milwaukee, two at home against Milwaukee, three at home against Arizona and two at home against San Diego.

• The Gophers men's track and field squad will send 13 athletes into action at the NCAA outdoor track and field first round tournament in Austin, Texas, later this month. They will be led by decathlete Luca Wieland who has already qualified for the track and field championships in Oregon in June, in three events.

• Nick Gordon continues to be the top prospect going for the Twins in the minor leagues. The 21-year-old former first-round pick is at Class AA Chattanooga and is sixth in the Southern League in batting average at .320 and has nine doubles, five triples three home runs, 23 RBI and 22 runs scored in 37 games. He has also drawn 16 walks and is 10th in the league in on-base percentage (.383).

Sid Hartman can be heard Monday and Friday on 830-AM at 8:40 a.m., Friday at 2 p.m. with Chad Hartman, and on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com