Twins ace Ervin Santana struggles early in rare loss

MINNEAPOLIS — Mark Reynolds came back to the Colorado Rockies this season on a just-in-case basis.

He’s in the middle of their thriving lineup like he was part of the plan all along.

Nolan Arenado got the doubleheader going with a first-inning home run, Reynolds added a two-run single and the road-tough Rockies beat the Minnesota Twins 5-1 on Thursday in the first game of a doubleheader.

German Marquez (2-2) dodged trouble over five innings to limit the damage to a sacrifice fly by Brian Dozier, and the Rockies raised their record in away games to 13-5, the best mark in the major leagues. They’re leading the NL at 26-15 overall.

Reynolds has a team-leading 35 RBI, putting him in the top five in the majors, to go with a whopping 1.008 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. He signed a minor league contract a couple of weeks before spring training, and has been difficult to bench even with first baseman Ian Desmond back from injury. With the interleague matchup, manager Bud Black was able to use Reynolds as the designed hitter.

Still the all-time leader with 223 strikeouts for Arizona in 2009, Reynolds has improved his two-strike approach and balanced his power with better contact.

“I think it’s a big pat on the back to Mark to, over the course of his career, make changes in the type of offensive player he’s become,” Black said.

Greg Holland struck out Dozier to end the game for his franchise-record 18th consecutive save to start the season, after entering with runners at first and second, to notch his second straight one-batter save.

Desmond and Charlie Blackmon drove in runs against Twins starter Ervin Santana (6-2), who took the mound with the major league lead in ERA (1.50). Santana finished seven innings for the fifth time in nine tries, but two of the four walks he issued scored.

“They’re very aggressive right now and everything is going their way, so every time you’re behind in the count something’s going to happen in favor of their team,” said Santana, who has walked 12 batters over his last three turns.

Eleven of the 14 runs that Santana has allowed this year have come in his last two home appearances.

ARENADO AMBUSH

Santana was one strike from finishing a perfect first inning before Arenado belted a full-count fastball into the second deck above left field for his 10th homer. Arenado is 16 for 31 with five doubles, four home runs, three walks and 13 RBI in the first inning this season.

LOCATION LUCK

The Twins, who have the second-best AL road record at 11-5, fell to 8-12 at home. Twins manager Paul Molitor didn’t want to dissect the issue.

“Probably we have to put the gray uniform on and try to play with a gray uniform,” Santana said, smiling.

ROTATION ROULETTE

The rainout Wednesday night forced the day-night, split-admission doubleheader Thursday and threw a curveball at the pitching plans for both teams.

Colorado’s Tyler Chatwood (3-5, 5.25 ERA) and Minnesota’s Jose Berrios (1-0, 1.17 ERA) were assigned to pitch the second game, but neither manager expressed interest in bringing the afternoon starter back Monday on short rest.

Molitor announced that Alejandro Mejia will start Saturday against Kansas City, leaving options open for Monday. Black was noncommittal for Monday, when the team will play at Philadelphia, but Jeff Hoffman could be recalled from Triple-A for that game.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rockies SS Trevor Story, placed on the 10-day DL a week ago with a strained left shoulder, took batting practice before the game and was dispatched to a rehab assignment with Triple-A Albuquerque. He’s batting only .180 with a team-high 48 strikeouts in 111 at-bats.

UP NEXT

Rockies: LHP Tyler Anderson (2-4, 6.43 ERA) will take the mound Friday at Cincinnati, with RHP Lisalverto Bonilla (0-1, 4.85) pitching for the Reds.

Twins: RHP Hector Santiago (4-2, 3.80 ERA) will pitch Friday against Kansas City, opposite RHP Nate Karns (2-2, 4.46) for the Royals.