Updated: October 1st, 2010 9:59pm
Twins' skid continues, but Pavano throws well and offers positive words

Twins' skid continues, but Pavano throws well and offers positive words

by Phil Mackey
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The slide continues.

Edwin Encarnacion's three-run blast in the top of the eighth inning off Jesse Crain lifted the Toronto Blue Jays to a 6-3 win over the Minnesota Twins on Friday night.

The Twins have now lost seven of their last eight games, and over that stretch the pitching staff has allowed 67 runs in 71 1/3 innings (8.46 ERA).

Not exactly the way manager Ron Gardenhire and company hoped to finish out the regular season.

That said, there is almost no sense of panic in the Twins clubhouse. Frustration and irritation, yes. But no panic.

"I think we'll be fine confidence-wise, but it's always nice to win ballgames," Gardenhire said. "Tonight was a good one. We had our chances. But yeah, you like to win ballgames, always.

"I thought the enthusiasm, I thought everything was good on the bench tonight. Everybody was fired up and into it, and it starts with your pitcher. If your pitcher pitches like that and gives you a chance, then you'll have a good ballgame. And we did."

The silver lining from Friday night is that one day after Twins pitchers gave up six home runs, Carl Pavano came out and threw seven strong innings, allowing only one earned run on nine hits and a walk while striking out three.

With that strong performance, Pavano turned the tide on two mini trends -- he had previously allowed 12 earned runs over nine innings in his last two September starts, and he had allowed 12 earned runs in 10 1/3 innings over his last two starts against Toronto this season.

"Physically, I feel a lot better than I did last year going into the postseason, because I hadn't been in that position in innings and volume," said Pavano, who will finish the season with 221 innings pitched. "I like our team. I think our team is definitely stronger going into this year. You can look back and look at our record the last six or seven days or games, and it's not very good. But I feel good that guys are getting healthy.

"I think we know what we're capable of doing."

The Twins took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, courtesy of an RBI single by Joe Mauer -- his first hit since returning from a knee injury on Thursday.

In the top of the seventh, Yunel Escobar bounced into a run-scoring groundball double play to tie the game, 2-2.

One inning later, with Jesse Crain pitching for the Twins, John Buck put the Blue Jays up 3-2 with a two-out RBI single, and Encarnacion followed with his third home run of the series -- a three-run bomb to make it 6-3.

Earlier in the game, Encarnacion delivered an RBI single in the top of the fifth to temporarily tie the game at 1-1.

Delmon Young opened the scoring in the bottom of the second with a solo blast into the bullpen in left-center, giving the Twins a 1-0 lead.

Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero allowed two earned runs on six hits in eight innings while striking out five.

Jim Thome (back) returned to the lineup for the first time since September 21. He went 0-for-2 with a strikeout before exiting, as planned, for Trevor Plouffe.

LHP Brian Duensing (10-3, 2.44) is scheduled to face RHP Shaun Marcum (13-8, 3.63) on Saturday afternoon.

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.
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