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Updated: August 22nd, 2011 9:57pm
Twins Daily: Hardy's blast helps give Orioles the edge over Pavano

Twins Daily: Hardy's blast helps give Orioles the edge over Pavano

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- J.J. Hardy announced his return to Target Field with authority on Monday night, blasting a go-ahead home run into the left-field seats off Carl Pavano as the Baltimore Orioles beat the Minnesota Twins 4-1.

The skinny

Hardy's solo home run in the top of the fifth inning put the Orioles in front for good, but the story on Monday night was the Twins' inability to hit with runners in scoring position.

The Twins put 12 runners on base in the first seven innings, including 10 against starter Zach Britton, who bobbed and weaved his way through five innings, allowing only one run on six hits and four walks while striking out four.

Overall, the Twins went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position, with the lone run came on an RBI groundout by Joe Mauer in the third inning.

"Offensively, we got some people out there but never came up with the big hit with two outs to drive in the runs," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "One run's not going to get it."

The Orioles scored single runs in the third, fifth, sixth and seventh innings, with Matt Wieters adding a solo home run off Pavano in the sixth to go along with Hardy's blast.

Pavano threw seven innings, giving up four earned runs on nine hits and two walks. He struck out three and threw 117 pitches.

"Bottom line is I've got to make better pitches in the clutch," Pavano said. "Usually solo home runs don't hurt you, but they hurt me today... I'm definitely kicking myself in the butt, and I'm not happy with the way I'm throwing."

Turning point

With the game tied 1-1 in the top of the fifth, Hardy popped up in foul territory behind first base. Joe Mauer trotted over, leaned over the fence only to have a fan -- appropriately wearing a Mauer jersey -- reach up and deflect the ball away.

Four pitches later, Hardy turned on a fastball and lined it into the left-field seats for a home run, giving Baltimore a 2-1 lead.

"If you're a fan, you've got two choices; reach up and catch the ball, or let it hit you in the head and hope that Mauer catches it," Gardenhire said when asked if the foul ball was a turning point.

"If you're sitting there and you're a fan and the ball's in the stands, you're going to try to catch the ball. You can come up with all the B.S. you want to. You're going to catch the ball. It's the same way with (Steve) Bartman. You're going to catch the ball if you're fan. Balls come in the stands, people want foul balls. You can't blame our fans for reaching up and catching the balls. You can boo them, like I heard, but the ball's in the stands. ... Joe would have had the ball. He had a chance to catch the ball, but that's not why we lost the game."

Numbers game

24: Home runs for Hardy.

6: Home runs for Hardy as a Twin last season.

1: Career ejections for Valencia, who was tossed after giving homeplate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt a piece of his mind following a strikeout in the eighth inning. "I was just a little frustrated," Valencia said. "My emotions got the best of me there. I probably shouldn't have done it, obviously. But I kind of let him know that I was kind of displeased, but I shouldn't have done it. And he threw me out. ... I didn't even curse or anything, but either way I shouldn't have said anything."

60: Career ejections for Gardenhire, who was tossed after standing up for Valencia. Gardenhire and Wendelstedt have a storied history together -- with Gardenhire once sarcastically calling Wendelstedt "the god of umpires" -- and on his way back to the dugout, the manager tossed his hat high in the air. "I've got to go out and defend a little bit, and Hunter and I actually have gotten a long very well," Gardenhire said after the game. "It's just one of those things. I was a little frustrated and probably didn't need to get thrown out of the ballgame, but I was a little frustrated, and I don't have that many players, and I told him about that. But that's my fault, not Hunter's. I got thrown out. I probably deserved every, hopefully every five dollars."

1: Incredible catches by Ben Revere, who made an over-the-shoulder, Willie Mays-style, leaping grab at the fence to rob Vladimir Guerrero of an extra-base hit in the top of the seventh inning. "I saw Cuddyer and Kubel just standing there like, 'Oh my god.' ... their jaws just dropped," Revere said. "I was just going, 'Wow.' I've never done that before. ... I know my mom's going to be calling me, seeing if I'm OK."

Overheard

"I got my hat back. I have no idea why I did that."
-- Gardenhire, on tossing his hat after being tossed.

"That was ridiculous. That might be the play of the year."
-- Joe Nathan, who saw Revere's catch from the bullpen in left-center.

Health report

• Due to a right foot contusion, Justin Morneau was not available on Monday night. An X-ray showed no break, and even though he's still sore, the first baseman could return to the lineup on Tuesday, according to head athletic trainer Rick McWane.

• RHP Nick Blackburn received an MRI on his right forearm Monday, and he's scheduled to see a specialist on Tuesday morning.

• SS Tsuyoshi Nishioka (low back and oblique) is feeling "much better" Monday than he was heading into the weekend, per McWane, but he still wasn't penciled into the starting lineup.

• 2B Alexi Casilla started on-field running and agility drills Monday to test his hamstring, and he has had "no problems" so far, per McWane, but there is no timetable for his return.

Scott Baker (elbow) will start a throwing program on Tuesday. The right-hander said he felt like he "turned a corner" over the last couple days, but he will not be rushed back.

On deck

The series continues Tuesday (7:10 p.m., 1500 ESPN) when left-hander Brian Duensing (8-12, 4.75) faces right-hander Alfredo Simon (3-6, 4.68).

Duesning's struggles against right-handed hitters took a turn for the worse in his last start when three Yankees right-handed bats hit home runs into the left-field seats at Target Field. On the season, right-handed batters are hitting .321/.376/.546 with 56 extra-base hits off Duensing, as opposed to the .219/.242/.285 line by left-handed hitters.

Simon began the season in the bullpen, making seven relief appearances from May 24 until July 4. In eight starts since July 9, Simon owns a 4.70 ERA with 26 strikeouts, 13 walks and 57 hits allowed in 46 innings. He has allowed at least four earned runs in each of his last three starts, none of which have lasted longer than 5 2/3 innings.

Coming up

• Wednesday: vs. Orioles, 7:10 p.m. RHP Kevin Slowey (0-1, 6.20) vs. RHP Jeremy Guthrie (5-16, 4.55)
• Thursday: vs. Orioles, 12:10 p.m. LHP Francisco Liriano (9-9, 4.85) vs. RHP Jo-Jo Reyes (6-10, 5.44)
• Friday: vs. Orioles, 7:10 p.m. RHP Anthony Swarzak (3-3, 3.12) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (11-8, 5.17)

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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