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Updated: August 15th, 2010 3:58pm
Slowey exits no-no after seven as Twins hang on for 4-2 win over A's

Slowey exits no-no after seven as Twins hang on for 4-2 win over A's

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Behind Kevin Slowey's best pitching performance of the season, the Minnesota Twins completed a sweep of the Oakland A's, 4-2 on Sunday afternoon.

Slowey, who missed his last start with soreness behind his pitching elbow, threw seven hitless, shutout innings, allowing three walks while striking out five.

The performance was somewhat bittersweet for Slowey -- "I was a little disappointed," he said. "I don't think it would be possible not to be a little bit disappointed" -- but he also understood why finishing the game may not have been in his best interests.

"I think more than anything I was encouraged," Slowey said. "I was encouraged by the way it was presented to me, I was encouraged by the fact that (manager Ron Gardenhire) and (pitching coach Rick Anderson) care a whole lot more about me as a person and as a pitcher in the long-term than they do about winning one game, or having one accomplishment. I think that says a lot about them, and it says a lot about our organization."

Slowey became just the third pitcher since 2007 to throw at least five innings and leave a start early without allowing a hit (Rick Vanden Hurk and Jered Weaver each left early in 2008).

Manager Ron Gardenhire said before the game that Slowey and his elbow would be monitored closely, and he was faced with an extremely difficult decision when the right-hander climbed over 100 pitches in the seventh inning.

Slowey walked Jack Cust to start the inning, then hit Mark Ellis with one out. Gardenhire trotted out to the mound for a discussion, with Slowey sitting at 104 pitches. His 106th induced an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play off the bat of Rajai Davis.

But that was the end.

"You get to 105, I'm not going to let him throw 125, 130 pitches," Gardenhire said. "It's just not going to happen. If he went back out for one more inning, he'd probably be up there around 115, 120, and he'd be done anyway. There was no way he was going to finish, and (Anderson) and I, we're just not going to risk this young man. He's got too big of a career ahead of him."

Jim Thome added a three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh to put the Twins up 4-0, and Jon Rauch came on in relief, allowing a one-out double to Cliff Pennington, much to the chagrin of a sellout crowd at Target Field.

"I'd boo me too," Gardenhire said. "I took a pitcher out with a no-hitter going, but I would do it a thousand times the same way, because Slowey is just coming off an elbow injury, and we're not about to even come close to risking this guy.

"I mean, I was booing myself. But I also know what's right, and that's why I did that."

The A's went on to score two runs in the inning, both off Rauch, but Jesse Crain cleaned up the rest of the eighth, and Matt Capps tallied his fourth save as a Twin and 30th overall.

Slowey said his elbow felt fine after the game. His next scheduled start is on Saturday against the Angels.

The last team to throw a combined no-hitter was the Houston Astros on June 11, 2003. They used six pitchers in a 8-0 win over the New York Yankees.

The Twins have an off-day Monday before opening a three-game series at Target Field with the White Sox on Tuesday.

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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