What did I say, people? From the game thread earlier today.
I don't know if this has the potential of being a pitcher's duel, but I could easily see both starters pitching into the 7th or even 8th inning tonight. That may sound contradictory, but does 3 runs in 7 innings for Pavano really qualify him for being one half of a pitcher's duel? I think not.
For nearly 6 innings, we did have a pitcher's duel. The two teams were deadlocked in a 0-0 tie, with both pitchers doing a great job of shutting down the opposing team's offense.
That is, until Carl Pavano reached the Rays' half of the 6th inning. He was still on the mound and was still looking pretty good after striking out Ben Zobrist to lead off the inning, his 7th strikeout of the game. However, Pavano then walked Carlos Pena, and cleanup hitter Evan Longoria singled to left field. Now facing Luke Scott, Pavano induced a fly out to Denard Span for the second out in the inning. On the play, Pena tagged up and went to 3rd, drawing a questionable throw over the cutoff man from Span. Pena was just barely safe, but the throw by Span allowed Longoria to also tag up to second base.
After an intentional walk to Matt Joyce, B.J. Upton finally broke through with a 2-run single to center field. Once again, Span attempted a throw to third base, and again the results were not positive as Span's throw hit Joyce in the back, allowing a third run to score and Upton to advance to second.
The poor defense continued in the next inning for the Twins. With Alex Burnett pitching and one out, leadoff hitter Desmond Jennings hit a chopper to Danny Valencia at third. Valencia chose to stay back on the ball instead of charging it, and Jennings beat out Valencia's throw for an infield single. Ben Zobrist followed with a tailor-made double play to Alexi Casilla, but his throw was slightly wide of Jamey Carroll and the ball glanced off the tip of Carroll's glove for an error. Following Carlos Pena being hit by a pitch, Valencia committed the Twins' third error of the game when he was unable to backhand a grounder from Evan Longoria.
In the box score, we'll only see two unearned runs, but if Span threw to second base instead of third on Luke Scott's 6th inning fly out, it's very possible that Pavano could have escaped the 6th with at most a run allowed instead of three.
On the offensive side, the Twins were unable to do very much against James Shields. He did attempt to go for a complete game shutout, but he was already over 100 (110?) pitches starting the 9th, and was quickly pulled after a Josh Willingham single and Justin Morneau double. Ryan Doumit did get a sacrifice fly (would have been a double if not for Desmond Jennings' wheels) but then Fernando Rodney slammed the door on the Twins.
Josh Willingham (1 for 2, BB, HBP, extends hitting streak to 15 games), Joe Mauer (2 for 4), Carl Pavano (6 IP, 2 ER, 7 K)
Twins defense in 6th and 7th innings (3 errors and a couple miscues that didn't get scored as errors), Clete Thomas (0 for 4, 3 K), Danny Valencia (0 for 4, 2 K), Jeff Gray (0.2 IP, 2 BB, WP)
Yes, I know that Gray escaped without allowing any runs, but he looked awful pitching, as he only threw 11 of his 24 pitches for strikes, and he now has a 2/7 K/BB ratio on the season. His sparkling ERA is a mirage right now. I won't even try to pretend that I'm biased against him right now. I felt he (and Matt Maloney) were terrible waiver claims at the end of the Bill Smith era, and Gray has done little to change my opinion thus far.
Also, Willingham has now gone a full week with only a single hit per game, which means that he has hit .241 (7 for 29) in the second half of his 15 game hitting streak. He is tied with Kirby Puckett for the longest hitting streak to start a season, and he will attempt to be the sole leader tomorrow in the rubber game against the Rays.