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Updated: May 8th, 2011 3:56pm
Twins Daily: With little help from defense, Carl Pavano rocked again

Twins Daily: With little help from defense, Carl Pavano rocked again

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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Unable to use Friday's nine-run outburst as a spark, the Minnesota Twins have now dropped two in a row to the Boston Red Sox in unimpressive fashion -- the latest a 9-5 throttling of Carl Pavano on Sunday.

The skinny

Pavano, with help from sloppy defense, squandered a 3-0 first-inning lead to the Red Sox on Sunday. The right-hander allowed seven earned runs on 10 hits and a walk in only five innings.

The Twins committed three errors on defense, and looked generally disorganized and sloppy in the field altogether.

An offense that scored nine runs off Tim Wakefield and company on Friday night has since gone stagnant -- with the exception of a short outburst against right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka early on in Sunday's game. But the hibernation continued from that point forward.

Turning point

The Twins took a 3-1 lead into the third inning, but a sloppy frame erased the advantage vaulted the Red Sox in front for good.

Carl Crawford started the inning with a triple, and he scored on a Jason Varitek groundout to make it 3-2. With the bases empty, Jacoby Ellsbury hit a groundball toward shortstop that snuck under the glove of Trevor Plouffe for what was ruled a base hit. After Ellsbury stole second, Dustin Pedroia walked and Adrian Gonzalez singled to center, scoring a run and cutting the lead to 3-2.

Kevin Youkilis followed with a fielder's choice groundout to short, plating Pedroia to tie the game, and David Ortiz laced a single to left to put runners on first and second with two outs. An errant throw by catcher Drew Butera while attempting pick off Kevin Youkilis sailed into center, allowing Youkilis to reach third base. In fairness to Butera, batter J.D. Drew appeared to interfere with the throw when he stepped across home plate, but the baseball gods didn't seem to care as Drew drove home Youkilis with a single shortly after.

The ninth batter of the inning, Jed Lowrie, finally flew out to end the inning, but not after the Red Sox took a 5-3 lead.

Numbers game

24: Heading into Sunday, the number of relief pitchers who have more strikeouts than starter Pavano (17) so far this season. Pavano, who signed a two-year, $16.5 million deal this offseason to lead the Twins rotation, faced 25 batters on Sunday and didn't strike out any of them. He also failed to strike anybody out in his last start against Kansas City on May 1. Considering the Twins' defensive issues this season, pitching to that much contact is not a good recipe for success.

3: Home runs for Danny Valencia this season after a solo blast in the fourth inning, tying him with Michael Cuddyer for the team lead. Valencia also leads the team with 18 RBIs.

6: Outings for right-hander Joe Nathan since losing the closer's job on April 16 in Tampa Bay. In those five outings, Nathan has allowed five earned runs on four hits and three walks while striking out six, including a scoreless eighth inning on Sunday. Gardenhire said on his weekly 1500 ESPN radio show Sunday that Joe Nathan, after a couple more tune-up outings, could begin to see more late-inning action. Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson have been discussing what to do with Nathan going forward, and -- perhaps out of necessity, due to a thin bullpen -- they have decided it's almost time to see what Nathan can do once again. All six games Nathan has pitched in since being demoted have been blowouts of four runs or more.

Health report

• SS Trevor Plouffe left early with a sore hamstring, but the team hopes it was simply a cramp.

• OF Delmon Young (ribs) is scheduled to travel to Florida within the next couple days, manager Ron Gardenhire told 1500 ESPN on Sunday morning, the left-fielder could play in a rehab game on Tuesday.

• C Joe Mauer (leg weakness) is "working and getting better," Gardenhire said, "but we're still not sure on the time frame until he gets the arm and elbow and legs underneath him."

• DH Jim Thome underwent an MRI for his strained oblique, but results showed a mild strain in his back, "which is good news," Gardenhire said. Thome is eligible to return from the disabled list on May 15.

• LHP Francisco Liriano (sore throat) was feeling better on Sunday, per Gardenhire, and he is in line to make his rescheduled start on Tuesday in Minnesota.

Who's hot

• With another gem against the Red Sox on Friday night, right-hander Scott Baker now owns a 1.59 ERA with 25 strikeouts and just four walks in his last four starts (28 1/3 innings). Considering he failed to string together three consecutive quality starts at any point in 2010, Baker's hot stretch is even more impressive.

• Left-hander Glen Perkins continues to be one of the lone bright spots in the Twins' bullpen. In 14 2/3 innings this season, Perkins has allowed only one earned run while striking out 11 and walking five.

Who's not

• Pavano is off to a nightmarish start to the season, having allowed at least six earned runs in four of his seven starts (6.64 ERA). Pavano has never relied heavily on strikeouts, but hitters were making contact on 85% of their swings heading into Sunday -- the highest mark of Pavano's career -- and a shoddy defense isn't helping convert those batted balls into outs.

• With an 0-for-4, three-strikeout performance on Sunday, Justin Morneau continues to sputter mightily. The first baseman is now hitting just .202/.269/.293 with one home run.

On deck

The Twins look to salvage a split on Monday night (6:10 p.m., 1500 ESPN) when right-hander Nick Blackburn (2-4, 4.41) faces right-hander Josh Beckett (2-1, 2.35).

Beckett has been dealing with an unnamed illness recently, telling reporters late last week that he's been "fatigued. I had that stomach flu stuff that was going on." Despite the recent illness, Beckett is off to a solid start this season, posting a 2.35 ERA with 35 strikeouts and 12 walks in 38 1/3 innings.

Blackburn has been a mixed bag through six starts, which isn't necessarily a shock. The sinkerballer posted a 0.77 ERA through his first two starts before allowing five earned runs in each of his next three. In his last start at Chicago, however, Blackburn induced 11 groundball outs to just one flyball out while allowing one earned run in 6 2/3 innings.

Coming up

• Tuesday: vs. Detroit, 7:10 p.m. LHP Francisco Liriano (2-4, 6.61) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (2-2, 3.93).
• Wednesday: vs. Detroit, 12:35 p.m. RHP Scott Baker (2-2, 2.97) vs. LHP Phil Coke (1-5, 4.75).
• Thursday: Off day

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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