Twins 8, Royals 3: Pavano Bounces Back

Minnesota starter Carl Pavano rebounded from a poor outing against the Royals last Sunday, pitching seven strong innings and leading the Twins to an 8-3 victory last night at Kauffman Field. With the win, the Twins move to 12-5 on the season and increase their division lead to three games over the Detroit Tigers, who lost 5-4 last night in Texas. The Twins also clinch their first winning April since 2007.

The Twins lineup got on the board early, as Orlando Hudson and Justin Morneau singled and Michael Cuddyer doubled off Royals starter Gil Meche in the first, putting the Twins up 2-0. Minnesota would add to the lead in the third inning, as Michael Cuddyer barely beat out a double play with the bases loaded. But after a Jason Kubel walk, Jim Thome would end the threat by grounding out.  3-0 Twins.

Pavano cruised through the first two innings, same as in his previous start. Last time out, he was pounded in the third. Last night, the Royals managed a two out double and single to put their first run on the board. But Pavano got out of the inning, 3-1 Twins. Meche melted down in the fourth, walking Brendan Harris and Denard Span, giving him five walks on the night. After Meche was pulled in favor of the Royals' incendiary bullpen, Hudson grounded into a tailor made double play ball. Span's aggressive slide drew Yuniesky Betancourt's throw up the first base line, past first baseman Billy Butler. Harris kept on running from second base, and scored just in front of Butler's attempt to tag Hudson after rounding first. In the fifth, Jim Thome hit an opposite field home run to straight away left, and the Twins were up 5-1.

Pavano continued on cruise control until the bottom of the sixth. David DeJesus his a long fly ball off the top of the fence in right. Cuddyer thought the ball cleared the fence, so he casually went over to pick up the ball. But second base umpire Brian Knight never gave the home run signal, and DeJesus kept on running. By the time Cuddyer realized this and got the ball in, DeJesus had rounded the bases for an inside the park home run. Replays showed that the ball clearly hit the top of the wall and bounced back behind a small retaining fence, so it should have been a home run. But there was no reason for Gardy to ask for a replay, as it was a homer regardless. Pavano was unfazed, getting ground outs to end the inning. 5-2 Twins. And in the seventh, Pavano was really bringing it, hitting 93 on the radar gun and throwing it right past the Royals hitters.

After a J.J. Hardy home run extended the Twins lead to four, Matt Guerrier gave up his first run of the season in the bottom of the eighth, getting out of the inning with a 6-3 lead. So closer Jon Rauch started warming up for the ninth. A two run Jim Thome double in the top of the ninth made the score 8-3, so Rauch sat down for the second time this week since it was no longer a save situation. Brian Duensing closed it out with a scoreless night, giving the Twins a victory in the first game of their nine game road trip.

Studs, duds and a few notes follow after the jump.

Studs:

  • Carl Pavano: 7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 SO. Solid, very solid. Never allowed the Royals to put together a sustained threat.
  • Jim Thome: 2-5, HR, 2B, 3 RBI. Contributed +1.14 runs at the plate.
  • Orlando Hudson: 3-4, R, BB. Contributed +0.90 runs.
  • Justin Morneau: 1-3, RBI, 2 BB. Contributed +0.60 runs offensively, and at least as much defensively with a diving grab of a Jason Kendall line drive and starting a nice 3-6-3 double play in the second.
  • Denard Span: 1-4, R, BB. Contributed +0.66 runs, mostly on the base paths with a stolen base and advancing on a wild pitch in the third.

Duds:

  • Joe Mauer: 1-5, 2B. Contributed -0.67 runs. Failed to drive in runs a few times with runners in scoring position. I'm concerned I may be struck by lightning if I keep calling Mauer a "dud" in my recaps...
  • Brendan Harris: 0-4, the only Twins batter without a hit. Contributed -0.50 runs. 
  • Matt Guerrier: 1 IP, H, BB, HBP, R. For the first time this season, Guerrier wasn't sharp. But he limited the damage. 

Notes

  • Jason Kubel's early season struggles continue. He's now batting .185/.323/.315. He managed to punch a single past the third baseman and draw a walk, so his net contribution (+0.13 runs) was positive. But he's not driving the ball yet.
  • J.J. Hardy was fooled on his home run, way out in front of a Kyle Farnsworth breaking ball. But he managed to stay back and hit a fly ball that kept carrying and carrying to left.
  • Farnsworth throws 100 MPH, but he throws way too many breaking balls for a pitcher with his arm.
  • The Twins drew seven more walks last night, giving them 79 for the season. The Twins now lead teh majors in walks, three ahead of the Yankees and Tigers.
  • The Twins placed Nick Punto on the 15 day DL, eligible to return on May 1st. Infielder Luke Hughes was called up, as Danny Valencia and Matt Tolbert have been struggling at AAA Rochester.
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