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Updated: May 26th, 2012 4:52pm
Carl Pavano bounced early, Twins hitters strike out 16 times in defeat

Carl Pavano bounced early, Twins hitters strike out 16 times in defeat

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Carl Pavano was hit hard and Minnesota Twins hitters struck out 16 times in a 6-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers on Saturday.

The skinny

Once again, starting pitching gave the Twins almost no chance to win.

After allowing two runs in the first inning on an RBI double by Miguel Cabrera and an RBI single by Prince Fielder, Pavano settled down and navigated through three scoreless frames into the fifth.

Then the levies broke.

Alex Avila reached with one out on a line drive single to start the frame, and Ramon Santiago and Quintin Berry followed with groundball singles through the right side -- the latter driving home Avila to put the Tigers up 3-2.

The next batter, Andy Dirks, laced a double to center field that drove in another run, and Cabrera and Fielder each singled sharply.

Fielder's hit signaled the end for Pavano, who left having surrendered six earned runs on 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings. He struck out two and walked nobody.

"It's a game of inches. The balls were hit perfect in the hole," Pavano said, referring to the seeing-eye singles by Santiago and Berry. "I went and looked at the film, and a couple of them got too much plate even though they were groundballs. I could have made better pitches in that inning. I didn't do that. ...

"It's just one of those things where the balls are finding holes in an inning where you want the groundball, but it's just hit in the wrong spot. I could beat myself up about it, and I probably will."

Pavano's performance marked the 23rd time in 46 games that a Twins starter has allowed at least five runs.

Velocity has been a talking point with Pavano all season. On Saturday his fastball sat mostly between 86 and 87 mph, touching 88 a few times. But the right-hander insists his performance Saturday had more to do with poor execution than the lingering shoulder discomfort he has dealt with this season.

"I think I'm starting to put those things behind me," he said. "I'm feeling better, but that's no excuse. I'm in the position where I could execute better pitches and make better pitches, regardless of what I'm dealing with physically. I know I could pitch better than I am, and I need to do that. This is a game where they needed me to step up and shut them down and keep the bullpen out of it as long as we could considering how much we've used them the last couple of games, and I wasn't able to do that. I'm disappointed by that."

Twins hitters struck out a combined 16 times against starter Max Scherzer and relievers Octavio Dotel, Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde. 

The Twins' only runs came on solo homers by Denard Span and Justin Morneau, and on a run-scoring 4-6-3 double play hit into by Joe Mauer.

The Twins had a chance to do damage in the bottom of the eighth, trailing 6-3 with runners on first and second. But Benoit fanned Mauer and Josh Willingham to end the inning.

Brian Duensing pitched 1 2/3 innings before the rain delay and another inning after, including striking out the side in the seventh.

The loss drops the Twins (15-31) 16 games below .500, which matches their record through 46 games last year.

"I don't think it's about run production with us," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We score runs. It's about pitching and getting behind in games and kind of limiting what you can do. We have to do better with our pitching. We all know that. It's pretty simple."

Turning point

Trailing 6-2 in the bottom of the sixth, the Twins ignited a rally off Max Scherzer....

Span's homer cut the deficit to 6-3, then Ben Revere and Mauer delivered back-to-back singles with one out.

But a 42-minute rain delay halted play with runners on the corners, and when the game resumed Dotel -- replacing Scherzer -- struck out Willingham on three pitches and got Morneau to pop out to end the threat.

Numbers game

3: The number of times Tigers baserunners advanced from first base to third base on singles to right field in the fifth inning. Ben Revere was the right fielder.

21: Length of the rain delay, in minutes, that delayed the start of the game.

6: Earned runs surrendered by Pavano is the most he has given up since July 31, 2011 when Oakland knocked in seven in a 7-3 victory.

Health report

• RHP Nick Blackburn (thigh) threw a long bullpen session on Saturday, and the plan is for him to throw rehab starts for Triple-A Rochester on Tuesday and next Sunday. It's possible he could rejoin the Twins rotation after that.

• RHP Alex Burnett (elbow) likely will not land on the disabled list. "It was a stinger basically," Burnett said. "When I was throwing my curveballs it was sending a shooting pain through my arm and to my fingers. Out there it was good. Everything is good, snapping curveballs, sliders and fastballs. A couple of days off and anti-inflammatorys and we're all good."

Overheard


"We've got figure out a way to keep the ball in the starter's hands and get deeper into the game. It can't continue like this."
-- Gardenhire

On deck

Sunday: vs. Tigers, 1:10 p.m. RHP P.J. Walters (2-1, 2.95) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (3-4, 5.29)
Monday: vs. Athletics, 1:10 p.m. LHP Scott Diamond (3-1, 1.78) vs. RHP Graham Godfrey (0-4, 6.16)
Tuesday: vs. Athletics, 7:10 p.m. RHP Cole De Vries (0-1, 5.40) vs. RHP Jarrod Parker (1-2, 3.38)

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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