Twins Eek Out Fairly Sloppy Game in Series Opener
Carl Pavano wasn’t happy when Drew Butera decided to shave his mustache.
But the veteran pitcher, who sports a mustache of his own that is rising in popularity, will forgive the young catcher as long as the pair continues to rack up wins.
With Butera _ his personal catcher _ behind the plate, Pavano pitched into the seventh inning for his 15th win, Danny Valencia had two hits and two RBIs and the Minnesota Twins held on to beat the Oakland Athletics 4-3 on Friday night despite being outhit 14-5.
Pavano (15-7) allowed two runs and 10 hits over 6 1-3 innings and matched the Yankees C.C. Sabathia and the Rays David Price for the most wins in the American League.
“You’re going to have some innings where they’re kind of rough,” Pavano said. “You just don’t want it to blow up in your face. It didn’t happen tonight because we made some great plays.”
Matt Capps allowed an unearned run in the ninth, but held on for his third save with the Twins and 29th overall. He got Rajai Davis to fly out to end the game with runners on first and second.
Minnesota took a 3-2 lead in the fourth inning when Valencia’s ground-rule double scored Delmon Young. Valencia advanced to third on Alexi Casilla’s sacrifice bunt and scored on Butera’s squeeze to make it 4-2.
Butera fought off a low curve from A’s starter Gio Gonzalez to lay down a perfect squeeze.
“He shaved his mustache, I was a little disappointed in that,” Pavano said. “But he picked us up when we needed to be picked up. He’s a good young kid and he steps up when we need him.”
Daric Barton and Jack Cust had the A’s RBIs. Mark Ellis had three hits for Oakland, which matched a season high with 13 runners on base.
Oakland finished 2 for 20 with runners in scoring position.
“A couple innings, not only did we get however many hits we had, but I think we hit the ball pretty hard on a lot of outs as well,” Cust said. “That’s also frustrating when guys are hitting the ball well and not getting anything to show for it.”
Twins reliever Jesse Crain got Coco Crisp to ground into a bases-loaded double play to end the eighth inning.
With runners on second and third and one out in the seventh, Ron Mahay relieved Pavano and struck out Cust. Casilla made a diving catch deep in the hole at short off the bat of Kevin Kouzmanoff to end the threat.
Denard Span made a sprawling catch in center field on Cliff Pennington’s sinking liner to save a run and end the sixth inning.
“We made enough plays to win the game tonight,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, whose team also had two errors.
“We made some real good ones and some real bad ones. It was enough to win,” he added.
A combination of bad defense and control problems cost Gonzalez (10-8) in the first inning.
Span reached on an error to start the first and scored when Gonzalez walked Jason Kubel with the bases loaded. Valencia made it 2-0 with an RBI single later in the first.
The Twins continue to win without the services of All-Star first-baseman Justin Morneau. The former MVP has been out since July 8 with a concussion and said before Friday’s game that there is no timetable for his return.
Minnesota also will have to play the next four weeks without left-handed reliever Jose Mijares, who needs surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.
Gonzalez allowed four runs, two earned, and struck out seven over six innings. It was the first time in six games that an A’s starter has failed to pitch at least seven innings.
Nonetheless, if Butera didn’t get his squeeze down, the outcome could’ve been different.
“He made a good squeeze, great squeeze, on a curveball that almost hit the dirt,” Gonzalez said. “You’ve got to respect that.”
Barton, Crisp and Kurt Suzuki each had two hits for the A’s.
NOTES: In other Twins injury news, Gardenhire said shortstop J.J. Hardy (wrist) was available on Friday and should return to the starting lineup soon, reliever Jon Rauch (toe) is healthy and infielder Nick Punto (hamstring) is on pace to return soon. … The A’s placed infielder Adam Rosales on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his right ankle, and recalled infielder Steve Tolleson from Triple-A Sacramento to take his spot. … A’s reliever Andrew Bailey, out since July 21 with a right intercostal strain, threw from 140 feet on Friday and might throw of a mound by Sunday. … A’s prospect Chris Carter was 0 for 4 on Friday and is 0 for 13 with six strikeouts since being called up on Monday.