State of the Twins, Week 11: Pavano keeps dealing while others scuffle
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Carl Pavano outdueled Phillies ace Roy Halladay on Sunday, retiring the last 14 batters he faced in a complete-game, 4-1 win that sealed a series victory for the Twins, who took the final two games in Philadelphia.
It also allowed the Twins to maintain a 1½-game lead in the American League Central standings over Detroit and a 5½-game lead over surging Chicago, which has won six straight.
Here's where things stand through 11 weeks:
• CF Denard Span: A third-inning single on Sunday extended Span's hitting streak to seven games, and he added a solo home run in the fifth for his sixth multi-hit game since June 8 -- the first day back from a brutal West Coast road swing on which Span was 2-for-30. In that 11-game stretch, Span is 18-for-49 (.367) with seven RBIs and a .404 on-base percentage.
• RF/DH Jason Kubel: The hitting streak now is 12 games for Kubel, whose 2-for-4 performance on Sunday gave him 16 hits -- seven of them for extra bases, including three homers -- and eight RBIs in his past 43 at-bats (.372). The run has raised his batting average 30 points to .255.
• SP Carl Pavano: The mustachioed mastery continues. Pavano's complete-game win on Sunday marked the sixth consecutive start in which he's gone at least seven innings. He's 4-2 with a 3.13 earned-run average, 19 strikeouts and seven walks in that stretch, which coincided with his decision to remove the lower half of his goatee after a rough outing May 18 at Toronto. He now leads the Twins with eight wins and ranks second among starters with a 3.64 ERA.
• Bottom of the rotation: The renewed struggles of RHPs Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey strengthen the case the Twins should pursue an established starter such as Seattle's Cliff Lee. Blackburn and Slowey each lasted only 1 2/3 innings in Philadelphia, combining to allow 15 runs and four homers. Blackburn has failed to get through four innings in three of his past four starts, going 0-3 with a 12.00 ERA. Slowey has gotten shelled in consecutive starts, giving up 13 runs (12 earned) in 6 1/3 innings and continuing his awful production in day games.
• 2B Orlando Hudson: The veteran returned from the disabled list on Friday after missing 2½ weeks with a bruised wrist, and he didn't look like himself in Philadelphia. He finished the series 2-for-15 (.133), didn't draw a walk and, over the final two games, struck out five times. To put that last number in perspective, Hudson previously had only three multi-strikeout games all season, and he hadn't fanned five times in a two-game stretch since his six strikeouts May 14-15, 2009, with the Los Angeles Dodgers -- a stretch that also began in Philadelphia.
HOW THEY STAND
1. Twins (40-29)
2. Detroit (38-30) 1.5 GB
3. Chicago (34-34) 5.5 GB
4. Kansas City (29-41) 11.5 GB
5. Cleveland (26-42) 13.5 GB
• SS J.J. Hardy (wrist) is eligible to return from the DL on Tuesday, but it's unclear whether he'll be ready. He didn't travel with the team to Philadelphia but has resumed swinging off a tee.
• RP Clay Condrey (right elbow strain) threw 20 pitches Friday in one inning of an extended spring training game, plus a brief bullpen session after, and was slated to throw two innings on Sunday. Barring a setback, he could begin a minor-league rehabilitation assignment this week.
• 2B Alexi Casilla (elbow), who had surgery June 4 to clean up bone spurs, has begun playing catch and taking swings in the batting cage. He's at least a couple of more weeks away from returning.
THE WEEK AHEAD
• Monday: Off.
• Tuesday: at Milwaukee, 7:10 p.m. Probable starters -- RHP Scott Baker (6-5, 4.41 ERA) vs. LHP Chris Narveson (5-4, 5.79).
• Wednesday: at Milwaukee, 7:10 p.m. LHP Francisco Liriano (6-4, 2.98) vs. LHP Manny Parra (1-5, 3.91).
• Thursday: at Milwaukee, 1:10 p.m. RHP Nick Blackburn (6-4, 5.80) vs. RHP Yovani Gallardo (6-3, 2.59).
• Friday: at N.Y. Mets, 6:10 p.m. RHP Kevin Slowey (7-4, 4.58) vs. RHP Mike Pelfrey (9-2, 2.69).
• Saturday: at N.Y. Mets, 12:10 p.m. RHP Carl Pavano (8-6, 3.64) vs. LHP Johan Santana (5-4, 3.31).
• Sunday: at N.Y. Mets, 12:10 p.m. Baker vs. LHP Jon Niese (4-2, 3.64).