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An unlikely pitching trio set up 2010’s finest moment

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It wasn’t ALL Jim Thome and flagpoles that year

Oakland Athletics v Minnesota Twins Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/Getty Images

When Twins fans think back to 2010, most of the memories revolve around the offense: Jim Thome hitting moonshots, Danny Valencia being white-hot, and a stacked lineup 1-9. Yet, with the division very much in play during the middle of August, it ended up being an unlikely trio of Minnesota starting pitchers who set the stage for the beginning of the end of the AL Central race.

New York Yankees v Minnesota Twins, Game 2 Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

On Friday night, 8/13/10, the Twins returned to Target Field after a 10-game road trip and welcomed in the Oakland Athletics. Carl Pavano took to the mound and was staked to an early 2-0 lead. After essentially being run out of New York on the rails, Pavano had resuscitated his career (and upper lip hair) with the Twins. On that night, he scattered 10 hits over 6.1 innings but only allowed 2 to cross home plate. Matt Capps made it interesting in the ninth—of course—yet the home team hung on for a 4-3 victory.

MARLIN LEVISON * mlevison@startribune.com August 14, 2010 - GENERAL INFORMATION: Twins vs. Oakland. Twins won 2-0. IN THIS PHOTO: ] Twins starting pitcher Brian Duensing was congratulated by catcher Joe Mauer at the end of the game after Duensing compl Photo by Marlin Levison/Star Tribune via Getty Images

The next night, the offense managed just two runs: a sac fly from Orlando Hudson and an RBI single from Joe Mauer. But Brian Duensing toed the Target Field rubber and was spectacular, hurling a CG 3-hit shutout on just 104 pitches. Duensing was drafted by the Twins organization in 2005 and sort of came out of nowhere in 2009 to draw an ALDS start in Yankee Stadium. Ultimately, Brian would build on that early-career success, posting a 10-3 with a 2.62 ERA (156 ERA+) in 130.2 IP over the course of ‘10.

Oakland Athletics v Minnesota Twins Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/Getty Images

Looking for a sweep of the Athletics on Sunday afternoon, Kevin Slowey no-hit the West Coast-ers for seven innings. While hardly ever spectacular, Slowey could almost always be counted on to be league-average (if not slightly above). 2010 was his fourth season in a Twins uniform, and the last in which he was ever that effective again. A Jim Thome 3-run bomb in the 7th largely put the competitive portion of the game out of doubt, so the suspense shifted to whether the no-no bid would continue. It did not. At 106 pitches, and just coming off a missed start due to elbow tendinitis, Gardy decided to pull Slowey. The combination of Jon Rauch, Jesse Crain, and Matts Capps lost the no-hitter, but secured the 4-2 victory.

That same weekend, the White Sox were busy losing two of three to the Tigers. After a mutual off day, the Twins hosted the ChiSox, the game went into extras, Matt Thornton entered and, well, you know. The Twins were four up in the Central and it was pretty much game, set, match at that point.

The Thome walk-off is what everyone remembers, and with good reason—it was certainly a Target Field touchstone. But during the previous three contests where the offense scored just 10 runs (a low amount by ‘10 standards), the combination of Pavano, Duensing, and Slowey kept the Twins in the thick of the division race.