MINNEAPOLIS — Even though Ervin Santana has been going through one of the toughest stretches of his career, he hasn't lost his smile.
After Sunday's bounce-back start, Santana was finally able to celebrate a victory instead of hide his frustration.
"I've been smiling, but don't get it wrong, I've been frustrated," Santana said. "I knew I could pitch better than that."
Down 7-0 in the ninth, Chris Carter hit a three-run homer and Jose Altuve cracked a two-run shot that made it 7-5 before Trevor May struck out Marwin Gonzalez to end the game.
"Had to hang on, but we win another series," said Twins manager Paul Molitor, whose team is 20-19-3 in series play.
It was Santana's 15th career game with double-digit strikeouts. He entered Sunday 0-1 with a 9.77 ERA in three starts at Target Field since returning from an 80-game suspension to start the season.
Lance McCullers (5-5) settled down after walking three of the first four batters he faced to begin the game before Nunez hit a 3-2 pitch off the upper deck in left-center field to make it 3-0 in the sixth.
"They score in the first inning without getting a hit. That was sort of the theme of this series," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We lose the series on just giving up 90 feet too much. Too many walks, too many hit-by-pitches and it came back to bite us."
After Eduardo Escobar added an RBI double in the seventh and scored on Joe Mauer's single, Sano lined the 13th homer of his rookie season over the left-field wall to make it 7-0.
The affable Santana (3-4), who signed the richest free-agent deal in Twins' history during the offseason, has maintained a positive attitude despite going 0-4 with a 9.20 ERA in his last six starts before bouncing back Sunday.
"Hopefully it'll be a confidence-booster for the next time he goes out," said catcher Chris Hermann, who threw out Gonzalez trying to steal second base in the fourth inning.
Santana struck out Colby Rasmus with two runners on to end the sixth and fanned Hank Conger with a runner on to close the seventh.
Altuve finished with four hits.
TWINS ROSTER MOVES COMING?
Molitor said before the game that the team will not wait until the minor league season is over to call up players once major league rosters expand to 40 players on Sept. 1. Molitor also said the team will be adding a third catcher as part of those call-ups.
ASTROS: SS Carlos Correa missed his fourth consecutive start with a sore hamstring. "I'm really close," Correa said. "I just don't want to force it and then miss September baseball." . OF George Springer singled in his first rehab game at Double-A Corpus Christi on Saturday night.
TWINS: Molitor said SP Phil Hughes might throw off a mound later this week as he continues to recover from a back injury that landed him on the DL retroactive to Aug. 10.
ASTROS: Dallas Keuchel (15-6, 2.28) has pitched at least seven innings and allowed three runs or fewer in his last four starts. He'll start for Houston as they return home to take on the Seattle Mariners and LHPVidal Nuno (0-2, 2.88) on Monday night.
TWINS: After a day off on Monday, the Twins travel to Chicago where rookie Tyler Duffey (2-1, 4.29) will kick off the three-game series against White Sox ace Chris Sale (12-7, 3.20) on Tuesday night.