"Ball one, ball two, ball three, ball four, so I was trying to take a deep breath," he said.
Santana walked three batters in an inning for the first time in a year and failed to pitch through the sixth for the first time this season in the Kansas City Royals' deflating 8-4 loss to the New York Yankees on Thursday.
He's 0-7 with a 7.28 ERA in 10 starts against the Yankees dating to August 2008 and has a 9.72 ERA in three outings at new Yankee Stadium, which probably isn't his favorite ballpark.
"I don't think of it that way," he said. "It doesn't matter where I pitch."
This was only the second time in 251 career starts that Santana was given a lead of three or more runs in the first inning and lost, according to STATS. The other was Sept. 30 at Texas.
Santana allowed eight runs and 10 hits in five-plus innings, the most runs off him since July 4 last year at Cleveland and the most hits since Aug. 17, 2011, against Texas.
"They weren't scorching balls early," manager Ned Yost said. "We had three in the first, one in the second. We had other opportunities that we couldn't get that big hit to add on in that situation. After the third inning we were up by one run and it looked like Ervin had settled down and was getting quick outs at that point.
On an afternoon notable for the return of Yankees captain Derek Jeter from a nine-month layoff caused by a broken ankle, the Royals left town with a four-game split.
Andy Pettitte (7-6) settled down after another shaky first inning to win consecutive starts for the first time since April. Lyle Overbay hit a go-ahead, two-run single in a four-run fifth.
Jeter was the Yankees designated hitter and went 1 for 4 with an RBI grounder. He felt a tight right quadriceps, was pinch hit for in the eighth inning and sent for a scan.
"It's not frustrating, yet. We'll see. They MRI everything around here," Jeter said. "I hope it's not a big deal."
Kansas City took a 3-0 lead in the first when Salvador Perez hit a two-run double, ending a 13 at-bat hitless streak, and Lorenzo Cain followed with a sacrifice fly. Pettitte has allowed nine runs in the opening inning of his last six starts, with batters going 14 for 31 (.452). The Royals' only other run was unearned, when Alcides Escobar had an RBI single in the second after Pettitte's throwing error on a bunt.
New York closed to 4-3 in the second when Austin Romine hit an RBI double and scored on Eduardo Nunez's single.
Ichiro Suzuki walked on four pitches with one out in the fifth, stole second and took third on Jeter's groundout.
Robinson Cano was intentionally walked, Vernon Wells walked on five pitches, Overbay singled for a 5-4 lead and Zoilo Almonte and Nunez followed with run-scoring singles that made it 7-4. Jeter drove in a run in the sixth after Tim Collins relieved Santana.
"We kind of let it slip away," said right fielder David Lough, who had three hits. "There definitely were some times where we could have put up a key hit."
Donnie Joseph made his big league debut for the Royals, retiring Wells on a flyout, walking Overbay and giving up a single to Almonte. The 25-year-old left-hander took the roster spot of right-hander Wade Davis, who was put on the paternity leave list.
"It was a dream come true. At this point I'm kind of glad that it's over with now," Joseph said. "Now I can focus on going out and pitching and not worry about making a debut. It was good to finally get that out of my system."
NOTES: Collins retired the side in order in the sixth and has 10 scoreless outings in 11 career games against the Yankees. ... Kansas City allowed eight or more runs in back-to-back games for the second time this year, following April 28-29 against Cleveland. ... Escobar has hits in 14 of his last 15 road games.