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Updated: May 6th, 2010 10:58pm
Mackey: Pavano's success is silver lining in loss

Mackey: Pavano's success is silver lining in loss

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by Phil Mackey
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins have been shut out twice this season -- 3-0 at Detroit on April 29, and 2-0 on Thursday night against Baltimore.

Carl Pavano started both of those games, combining for 16 innings and 13 strikeouts, while allowing only four earned runs and 18 baserunners.

Wasted starts?

Not a chance.

More like reasons for optimism.

Pavano's only mistake on Thursday night was hanging a second-inning slider to Ty Wigginton, who, for some reason, has 10 home runs already this season.

Beyond that, Pavano -- who was never really as bad last season as his 5.10 ERA suggested -- was excellent, throwing eight innings and striking out eight, while allowing only two earned runs and nine baserunners.

"You always feel like when you get beat 2-0, a guy gives you a great effort, sure, call it what you want -- a wasted start," Gardenhire said. "It's not really a wasted start, it's baseball.

"Last time it happened I can say it's a wasted start, because he really pitched good. But if we say that every time he pitched, that's going to get real old."

It's too easy to look at this unimpressive Baltimore offense -- which ranks third-to-last in the league in on base percentage -- and an opposing starting pitcher, Brad Bergesen, who had an ERA north of 10.00, and wonder why the Twins didn't win 9-1.

In reality, if the Twins and Orioles played this match-up 10 times, the Twins probably coast to a victory in at least six or seven of those games. But if we hyper-analyze every single game, we'd wind up in an asylum like Jim Carrey at the end of Batman Forever.

The silver lining is this: Carl Pavano has been fantastic this season in five out of his six starts, and his peripheral numbers and overall approach indicate he should see continued success as the season progresses.

Pavano lowered his ERA to 3.43 on Thursday night, and he's tallied 30 strikeouts in 39 1/3 innings this season while walking only six. He's also allowed only three home runs -- a big sticking point for him last year -- and coming into Thursday's game, Pavano's 0.86 walks per nine were the second fewest, behind only Roy Halladay.

"I've always been a strike thrower, I feel, and a guy that's pretty aggressive," Pavano said.

"Maybe when [teams] go look at the scouting report, they know we're going to throw strikes (as a pitching staff), and try to keep the strikes to quality. I think it works in our favor. If we throw quality strikes, they can swing all they want. We're going to get outs."

It doesn't take Kevin Slowey to figure out that pitchers have a significant advantage when ahead in the count, and Pavano gets ahead 0-1 more than just about any pitcher in baseball.

In 2009, Pavano led the majors in first pitch strikes (67.7%), and this season he ranks seventh (65.4%).

"You've got to keep them guessing, but you also have to be aggressive," Pavano said. "There's nothing like the first pitch strike.

"There's no doubt, when it's 0-1, it puts the hitter on a little defense, and you're able to use your pitches more."

Will there be the inevitable Pavano blow-up outings, much like we saw against Kansas City on April 18?

Sure. In fact, Pavano allowed six earned runs or more in six of his 33 starts last season. But he also held opponents to two earned runs or fewer 14 times.

Feast or famine. That's part of his nature.

Despite the 2-0 loss, enjoy the feast.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
In this story: Carl Pavano, Kevin Slowey