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Updated: June 3rd, 2011 10:13pm
Twins Daily: Carl Pavano goes the distance for 100th career victory

Twins Daily: Carl Pavano goes the distance for 100th career victory

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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Carl Pavano's first complete game of the season yielded the 100th win of his career on Friday as the Minnesota Twins prevailed for the second consecutive night, beating the Kansas City Royals 5-2.

The skinny

Pavano wasn't going to give the Twins' struggling relievers a chance to fritter away another close game.

The 35-year-old right-hander survived a rocky fourth inning -- including a soft liner that hit his throwing hand, a nasty spill off the pitcher's mound and two Royals runs -- to record the milestone victory all on his own.

He had thrown 103 pitches when he returned for the ninth and only had to throw nine more. Brayan Pena flew out, Chris Getz grounded out and Alcides Escobar popped up to first base to end it.

It was the third complete game this season for the Twins and the first since Sept. 10 for Pavano, who tied for the American League lead with seven last season. Kansas City (25-32) managed nine hits but missed multiple opportunities to overcome the Twins' fast start.

Denard Span gave the Twins an early lead with a two-out, two-run double over center fielder Melky Cabrera's head in the second inning. Michael Cuddyer blasted a solo homer in the third, and Drew Butera added insurance with RBIs in the sixth and eighth for the Twins (19-37), who can match their longest winning streak of the season (three games) on Saturday.

Turning points

Pavano got help from Kauffman Stadium ground rules and shortstop Alexi Casilla to keep the Royals from turning the tide in consecutive innings.

With two outs and a man on first base in the bottom of the third, Eric Hosmer lofted a deep drive to left-center field that cleared left fielder Delmon Young's glove -- but didn't clear the small lattice above the fence. Instead, the ball stuck momentarily in the padding on top of the fence until a fan plucked it out.

Umpires reviewed the play and correctly called it a ground-rule double. Two pitches later, Jeff Francouer tapped out weakly to second base, leaving Kansas City scoreless in the frame and leaving the Twins ahead 3-0.

The Royals did score two runs in the fourth, thanks in part to a soft liner off of Brayan Pena's bat that Pavano tried and failed to field with his bare hand. But the damage could have been worse if not for Casilla, who fielded Alcides Escobar's one-hopper at deep shortstop and fired home in time to cut down Wilson Betemit.

Alex Gordon followed with an RBI single to pull the Royals to within 3-2, but they never scored again.

Numbers game

6: Starts between Pavano's 99th win and his 100th. He hadn't won since April 24.

94: Career losses for Pavano in 269 appearances (251 starts).

2: Consecutive third outs recorded by the Royals at home plate. Danny Valencia couldn't score after Ben Revere got picked off first base in the third inning, and Alcides Escobar's relay was in time to stop Span from completing an in-the-park home run after Alex Gordon's dive let the ball get into the left-field corner in the fourth.

4: Seasons since the Twins had an inside-the-park home run. Joe Mauer had one on July 21, 2007 against the Angels.

421: Estimated distance to center field on Cuddyer's home run, which came on a 2-1 fastball.

18: Home runs hit by Cuddyer against the Royals, tying his highest total against any opponent. He also has 18 against the Chicago White Sox.

Health watch

• Mauer (leg weakness/sore shoulder) broke his hitless streak at extended spring training in Fort Myers, Fla., finishing 2-for-5 with two singles and a walk as a designated hitter. He is scheduled to catch five innings on Saturday. He'll be eligible to come off the disabled list on June 12, but the timeline is "still unknown," manager Ron Gardenhire said in an interview with 1500 ESPN. "It just depends on how everything goes, whether he has setbacks or anything like that -- none of us can tell. Once he starts catching day to day and back-to-back games and doing all those things and we start really getting a better feeling on how his body's going to handle these things and how his arm's going to handle these things."

• IF Tsuyoshi Nishioka (fractured fibula) is eligible to come off the DL on Tuesday. But he remains at extended spring training and at some point must play five or six games at Triple-A Rochester before the Twins consider activating him, Gardenhire said. "He's still got that little feeling where, when he takes off going full speed, he feels a little soreness," said Gardenhire, who confirmed the Twins plan to bring back Nishioka as a shortstop. "It's not a big deal. The leg's healed. But until we get him to be able to go out and say, 'I'm all out, I want to win, we're going to go get it,' we're going to kind of keep him there."

• LHP Francisco Liriano (shoulder) is expected to be activated in time to start on Tuesday at Cleveland, replacing RHP Anthony Swarzak, who has delivered two solid starts in Liriano's place, Gardenhire said.

• The pinched nerve in 1B Justin Morneau's neck is affecting him both in the plate and in the field, "but the good thing is the trainers tell me he's doing a lot of work on it," Gardenhire said. "The muscle's getting stronger, and he's getting a little better feeling back in it. So, continue to work and you know what? He's playing through injuries. That's what you have to do in this game, and he wants to be out there."

• DH Jim Thome, who was placed on the disabled list on Thursday with a strained left quadriceps, also continues to battle a sore shoulder. "This will give him a little bit of time maybe to get 'em both going," Gardenhire said. "He said it felt like a big shock wave went right through his thigh muscle."

• An MRI on RF Jason Kubel's injured left mid-foot showed only mild inflammation. Kubel was placed on the disabled list on Thursday, retroactive to May 31.

• Double-A OF Joe Benson is scheduled to undergo surgery on Monday to repair a slight meniscus tear in his left knee, the Star Tribune reported.

On deck

After a rock-solid May, right-hander Nick Blackburn (4-4, 3.57 ERA) closed the month on a down note, allowing five earned runs on seven hits in six innings of the Twins' loss on Monday at Detroit. He'll try to bounce back on Saturday (6:05 p.m., 1500 ESPN Twin Cities) against the Royals, who have had success against Blackburn in the past. In 10 career appearances (nine starts) against Kansas City, he's 1-3 with a 5.57 ERA, 30 strikeouts and 12 walks in 53 1/3 innings.

The Royals will counter with right-hander Luke Hochevar (3-5, 4.96), who only lasted five innings in his last outing on Monday against the Angels. The 27-year-old former No. 1 overall draft pick earned a win against the Twins on May 1 despite walking four and allowing three earned runs in 6 1/3 innings. In nine career appearances (eight starts) against the Twins, is 3-2 with a 5.19 ERA, 29 strikeouts and 24 walks.

Coming up

• Sunday: at Kansas City, 1:10 p.m. LHP Brian Duensing (2-5, 5.37) vs. LHP Jeff Francis (2-5, 4.46).
• Monday: at Cleveland, 6:05 p.m. RHP Scott Baker (2-4, 3.86) vs. RHP Josh Tomlin (7-2, 3.27).
• Tuesday: at Cleveland, 6:05 p.m. LHP Francisco Liriano (3-5, 5.73) vs. RHP Carlos Carrasco (4-3, 5.18).

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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