Mackey: Carl Pavano's impressive 'Iron Man' streak comes to an end
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MINNEAPOLIS -- So the Twins lost an extra-inning game in agonizing fashion to the Rays on Thursday night, but I'll be completely honest -- I was much more fixated on the Iron Man streak of Carl Pavano.
OK, so maybe Iron Man is a bit strong. But Pavano entered Thursday night's game having pitched at least seven innings in seven consecutive starts -- tied for the longest streak in baseball this season with Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, and Ubaldo Jimenez.
Pretty decent company.
Pavano likely had no clue about the streak. But I was perched on the edge of my press-box seat, eyes glued to the pitch count screen.
Things looked pretty gloomy for Big Pav after a 33-pitch fifth inning. He could have worked out of a jam 15 pitches earlier, but Nick Punto booted a two-out grounder that scored Ben Zobrist, tying the game 2-2. The error also extended the inning and eventually bloated Pavano's pitch count to 95.
"I got two outs, and I couldn't put them away," Pavano said about the lengthy fifth inning. "I got into some tough counts where I had to make some good pitches, and I didn't do that. It kept the momentum on their side."
Bullpen stirring. Six outs to go to extend the streak. That's OK. Pavano eats more innings than Pac-Man eats dots. Let's call him Pav-Man. With a Mario mustache.
Pavano came back and twirled a seven-pitch sixth, which was extremely clutch, considering Ron Mahay and Alex Burnett were warming up behind him the entire inning, and anything over seven pitches likely would have resulted in a pitching change.
Sean Rodriguez led off the seventh with a soft single to right field off Pavano, and Jason Bartlett dropped down a sacrifice bunt with two very good left-handed hitters -- Ben Zobrist and Carl Crawford -- coming up next.
With Pavano sitting on 105 pitches, manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson had to decide whether or not to bring in a lefty-specialist.
But pulling Pavano before the end of the seventh inning is like telling Rocky Balboa to stay in his corner before the 15th round (or 13th?). Pavano would rather say, "cut me, Rick," than tap out before the seventh.
Gardenhire and Anderson left Pavano in. And I have no problem with the move. Let the man finish his plate.
Well, Pavano wound up walking Zobrist after filling the count, putting runners on first and second with one out, leaving Gardenhire no choice but to summon Mahay. Crawford promptly greeted him with a rocket up the middle, giving the Rays a 3-2 lead.
With that, Pavano's streak of seven-inning outings came to an end at seven. His final line included three runs (two earned), seven hits, two walks, four strikeouts, and 111 pitches in 6 1/3 innings.
It was a good run, considering no pitcher has completed seven innings in eight straight games yet this season. Pavano came up just short.
In fact -- and this may or may not surprise people -- it's been four years since a Twins pitcher has gone seven innings in at least seven consecutive starts, which illustrates just how rare Pavano's streak was. Johan Santana did it in nine straight games in 2006, and Carlos Silva accomplished the task in 10 straight games in 2005.
The last time Pavano racked up that many long outings in a row was in 2004, his final season with the Marlins, when he pitched at least seven innings in 13 straight starts from late-April to early-July.
"This is my day to pitch, so I feel like from the first inning on it's my game until the situation dictates that you've got to pull someone out of the bullpen," Pavano said, referring to his mindset heading into each of his starts.
"I'm not selfishly thinking that it's my game, but there's a time when my stuff's good enough to pitch and go out there and get guys out, and I think up until the point they took me out (on Thursday night), I was capable of doing that."
From fragile to Iron Man (or is it Pav-Man?) in one calendar year.