Twins Daily: Aggressive baserunning, Pavano's complete game baffle Sox
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
MINNEAPOLIS -- A complete-game gem by Carl Pavano, some aggressive baserunning offensively, and 10 clean undershirts gave the Minnesota Twins a 4-1 win over the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday night, marking the sixth straight win over their division rivals.
If a slow start in April made the Twins front office nervous, in retrospect, about signing Pavano to a $16 million contract, May and June have likely erased any doubts.
Pavano was fabulous on Wednesday night, allowing only one run on six hits, striking out five and walking three. Pavano induced 13 groundball outs to just four fly ball outs, needing only 96 pitches to get through nine frames, and he has now completed at least seven innings in each of his last six starts.
"You want to go out there and keep your pitch count down, keep the team in the game, and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't," Pavano said. "We've been playing good baseball. I think I'm settling in a little better, as far as getting a little stronger and consistent with the things that I've been trying to establish."
Pavano almost didn't get a chance to finish the complete game. Juan Pierre led off the ninth inning with a single, and Alexei Ramirez followed with a double, putting runners on second and third with nobody out.
"I looked at (manager Ron Gardenhire) to see what kind of movement was going on," Pavano said. "He was top-stepping me. I was like, 'no way he's taking me out.'"
Pavano settled down to retire the next three batters without a run scoring.
Offensively, the Twins ran wild on the combination of right-hander Gavin Floyd and catcher A.J. Pierzynski, stealing five bases without being caught. Prospective base stealers have swiped 15 bags in 15 tries against Floyd this season, and Pierzynski has thrown out fewer than 20%.
Gardenhire -- taking advantage of Floyd and Pierzynski's struggles with base stealers -- called for a double steal, and Casilla and Cuddyer executed successfully.
"It's cool," Young said. "It reminds me of back when I was over in Tampa with (Carl) Crawford, (B.J.) Upton and (Akinori) Iwamura and (Rocco) Baldelli, just running amuck on the bases. It puts the pressure on the defense to worry about the runners. As a hitter you get better pitches to hit, and two, it creates holes on the field."
Young delivered, boucing a hard groundball up the middle for a two-RBI single to give Pavano a 3-0 cushion.
"Sometimes when (pitchers) are trying to slide step they can't get on top of the ball, so some of the breaking balls flatten out, and a lot of times you get a heater because you're trying to be quicker to home plate," Young said. "So as a hitter, sometimes -- with a burner on the base -- you might get a lot of slide-step fastballs. We're all trained to hit fastballs, so it makes it a pretty good thing."
10: Undershirts used by Pavano on Wednesday night. "I change (shirts) after every inning," Pavano said. "I sweat terribly. I feel like if the shirt's wet, I don't really cool down. I want to cool down in between innings and stay dry and go out there and work up a sweat. I sweat so much, for some reason I just feel better changing my shirt to a dry shirt. It's just always what I've done. I went through 10 today -- one through warm-ups, then nine. I wouldn't mind doing that every time, but I don't want to get greedy. Just go out there and put solid performances and change my shirts as much as possible. It's not a goal. It's not like I wake up in the morning and I put, 'change a lot of shirts today' before pitching well, but they kind of do go hand-in-hand ... I've been doing it for my whole career, ever since the minor leagues."
9: Complete games for Pavano since the start of 2010, putting him alone in second place behind only Roy Halladay (13).
27-7: The Twins' record against the White Sox dating back to May 21, 2009.
2-2: The Twins' record in games after rainouts.
3: Stolen bases for Cuddyer, who upped his season total to six with the effort. "I think I picked three good pitches tonight," Cuddyer said. "I mean, one was the backside of a double steal and they still almost got thrown out. And then the other one had to go to the backstop for me to get the stolen base, so I mean I think it just worked out today. I wouldn't really call me a speed demon or anything. I just picked three good pitches."
4: Double plays turned by the Twins defense, all of which involved shortstop Casilla, who seems to be thriving at the position. When asked if he had any second thoughts about moving Casilla from shortstop in favor of Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Gardenhire said, "No. I expect him to carry that glove over to second base and Nishi to do the same thing out there at shortstop. So I'm excited actually to see that I want to see Nishi and him out there together."
2:06: Time of game. "That was almost too quick," Pavano said. "There was that one inning where I walked a guy on five pitches, and I was out of breath. I was in here changing my shirt, walking around the dugout, and before you know it I'm out there. I rushed through my warm-up pitches, and I was out of breath. Can't complain about complete games, but I needed to slow myself down and gather myself a little bit."
• C Joe Mauer (leg weakness, soreness) finished his lengthy rehab assignment in Fort Myers on Wednesday with a batting practice session against right-hander Joe Nathan. Mauer is scheduled to arrive in Minneapolis on Thursday, and it's likely he will be the starting catcher on Friday when the Twins host the San Diego Padres.
• SS Tsuyoshi Nishioka (broken fibula) was activated from the 60-day disabled list prior to Wednesday's game. He will start at shortstop on Thursday.
• Nathan (elbow tenderness) "felt good" after facing Mauer and Miguel Sano in Fort Myers on Wednesday, per head athletic trainer Rick McWane, and the plan is for him to travel back to Minneapolis on Thursday. The schedule beyond that has yet to be determined. "I read a report that he's really close, but that's to be decided," Gardenhire said. "Our plan is for him to go to Triple-A and pitch, face hitters in a game situation and do that two or three times. I guess there's a discrepancy. He believes he's ready to go. I heard that, I read that. So we'll have a conversation with him. Normally I like to talk to the players before he talks to the press, but he went the other route. So we'll get it straightened out." Gardenhire added, "He needs a rehab ... We want game situations. There'll be an argument. I think I'll win."
• DH Jim Thome (back, quad) took batting practice in Fort Myers on Tuesday and "felt great," according to McWane. Thome has yet to face live pitching, but will do so soon.
• RHP Kevin Slowey (abdominal strain) played long-toss catch on Wednesday and reported no problems.
• LHP Glen Perkins (oblique) reported no problems after pitching two scoreless innings for Triple-A Rochester on Tuesday night. He was scheduled to travel back to Minneapolis on Wednesday. "Best-case scenario is more than likely they're activating him for Friday," Gardenhire said. "Give him two days off after throwing two innings."
• Outfielders Jason Kubel (sprained foot) and Denard Span (concussion, whiplash) are both "making progress," per McWane, but "they're not ready to go yet. We don't have a timetable yet on them, but we'll continue to progress them as they're able." Kubel said his foot felt OK when running on Wednesday, but he's unsure about a return date. He said if he doesn't return for this weekend's series against the Padres, it's possible he'd need to go on a rehab assignment.
• 1B Justin Morneau (wrist) walked through the clubhouse Wednesday with a cast on his left wrist. His wrist will be immobilized for 10 days, and after that he will return to a swinging program.
"I was pissed. If he caught it in fair territory I would have been happy to watch him catch it. But he made a hell of a play though, I saw the replay. I guess I didn't hit it hard enough if he caught it with bare hands."
-- Young, referring to the mammoth, near-home run he hit to left field that was caught by a fan just below the Budweiser Party Deck.
"Good chance. A really good chance. I like my job."
-- Gardenhire, when asked if Mauer would catch on Friday.
Joined by shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who will make his first start since breaking his fibula on April 7, right-hander Nick Blackburn (5-4 3.47 ERA) is set to battle left-hander Mark Buehrle (6-4 3.95) in Thursday afternoon's series finale (12:10 p.m., 1500 ESPN).
Since May 4, Blackburn has been fantastic, posting a 2.62 ERA in 55 innings of work. Current White Sox are hitting a combined .296/.343/.409 against the Twins right-hander, and Carlos Quentin has mashed to the tune of .375/.444/.583. Blackburn's 52% groundball rate would be a career high if the season ended today.
After starting the season allowing four or more earned runs in four of his first five starts, Buehrle has settled down. Since April 27, the left-hander has allowed three earned runs or fewer in each of his eight starts while striking out 30 and walking only 13 in 55 total innings. Active Twins are hitting a combined .295/.342/.450 against Buehrle, and Delmon Young and Michael Cuddyer in particular have owned the White Sox ace, combining to go 44-for-126 (.349) with five home runs, 11 doubles and 15 RBIs.
• Friday: vs. San Diego, 7:10 p.m. LHP Brian Duensing (3-6, 4.98) vs. LHP Clayton Richard (2-8, 4.06).
• Saturday: vs. San Diego, 6:10 p.m. RHP Scott Baker (4-4, 3.55) vs. RHP Tim Stauffer (2-4, 3.28).
• Sunday: vs. San Diego, 1:10 p.m. LHP Francisco Liriano (4-6, 4.67) vs. RHP Dustin Moseley (2-6, 3.16).