Hot start to season by Ervin turning heads

Hot start to season by Ervin turning heads

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins catcher Chris Gimenez said it only took until the fourth pitch of the game to realize right-hander Ervin Santana had his good stuff working against the White Sox on Saturday.

Santana struck out the game's first batter, Tim Anderson, on four pitches, including a slider for a called second strike and a 93-mph fastball blown past Anderson to end the at-bat. It was a sign of things to come for Santana, who threw his second career one-hitter in the Twins' 6-0 win at Target Field. It helped Santana improve to 3-0 with a 0.41 ERA, as he's allowed one run this year on only five hits in 22 innings.

"He was awesome," Gimenez said. "He had everything working. He did a tremendous job getting ahead of guys. He got early outs to keep the pitch counts down. He deserves all the credit. All I did was block two of the three balls he threw in the dirt."

Santana finishes one-hitter

Santana, who struck out eight, said his stuff felt even better than during his no-hitter against the Indians in 2011, when he struck out 10 and walked one. He also walked one batter this time out, and the lone hit he gave up came on a clean single from Omar Narvaez in the third.

"I felt sharper," Santana said. "A lot of balls were down. So it was good."

It's been part of an impressive open to the year for Santana, who has limited opponents to a .071 average that leads the Majors, while ranking third in ERA. It was also his second straight quality start against the White Sox, as he threw six scoreless frames in Chicago on Sunday, scattering two hits.

"He does the same thing every time we face him," Anderson said. "We just haven't made adjustments."

Gimenez said the recipe for Santana's success has been pounding hitters with inside fastballs and then using his slider to expand the zone once he gets ahead in counts. It was clear the White Sox had no real plan of attack against Santana, as he kept them guessing throughout the game.

"They didn't know when to swing or when to take pitches," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "Fastball was in to them, and they were out front on off-speed pitches."

Santana has also been efficient this year, and it was again the case on Saturday, as he needed only 107 pitches to record the shutout. Santana was at 96 pitches entering the ninth, but Molitor wanted to give him an opportunity to complete the one-hitter.

"He deserved the chance and he earned the chance," Molitor said. "It's been an incredible start to the season. It's been three really good starts."

After completing the first one-hitter by a Twins pitcher since 2007, Santana was treated to a standing ovation from the crowd, and said it meant a lot to him.

"It was amazing," Santana said. "Who's not going to enjoy that?" 

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. 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.