MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Carl Pavano has a World Series ring, plenty of pitching experience in October and even an All-Star game appearance.
The end of this mess of a season for the Minnesota Twins still mattered to the veteran right-hander, who wanted no part of 100 losses.
Trevor Plouffe’s RBI single with two outs in the ninth inning gave Pavano and the Twins a 1-0 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday, helping Minnesota stave off that dubious 100th defeat.
“It was a crazy game. I’m sure you guys understand what we had hanging over our heads. No one wants to lose 100 games,” Pavano said. “This year’s definitely been a disappointment for all of us, team-wise, but you’ve got to battle.”
Pavano (9-13) went the distance for the win, the first time he pitched nine scoreless innings since July 22, 2010. He gave up five hits and struck out three to help the Twins finish with two straight wins, their first consecutive victories since Aug. 31 and Sept. 2.
“You’re only as good as your last game, right?” a smiling right fielder Michael Cuddyer said. “There you go.”
Pavano even lobbied to take the mound for the 10th, as if he were Jack Morris pitching for the Twins in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, but manager Ron Gardenhire told him Joe Nathan would be taking his place.
“He gave me the death stare,” Gardenhire said.
Bruce Chen pitched eight shutout innings against the Twins for the second time this month, and the Royals turned to Blake Wood (5-3) for the ninth. Pinch-hitter Denard Span hit a one-out double, after Gardenhire told him to do just that. Span took third on a groundout and trotted home on Plouffe’s sharp single to left.
Plouffe raced around first base with his teammates chasing him from the dugout for a celebratory pileup, completing a season that was anything but fun. The Twins (63-99) still finished with the second-worst record in their 51 years in Minnesota.
Plouffe was careful, though, to clarify 99 losses is just as bad of a performance, pinning the exuberance on the desire to send the customers home happy. The Twins finished 33-48 at Target Field this year.
“We wanted to show the fans that we don’t give up,” Plouffe said.
Chen gave up eight hits, struck out four and walked two, capping a solid season for the crafty lefty. The Twins were 0 for 13 with runners in scoring position until Plouffe’s winner.
The Royals finished 71-91, a slight improvement from last season, but their cadre of rising stars gives them plenty of eagerness for 2012.
First baseman Eric Hosmer made himself a candidate for AL Rookie of the Year with a .293 batting average, 19 home runs and 78 RBIs, and center fielder Melky Cabrera had an exceptional season.
Kansas City threatened in the eighth. Mike Moustakas led off with a high fly down the line that Cuddyer let bounce off the wall in right, then skip by him. The Royals were cajoling Moustakas from the dugout to try for an inside-the-park homer, but he heeded third base coach Eddie Rodriguez’s stop sign and settled for a triple.
But Lorenzo Cain and Mitch Maier were each retired on comebackers to the mound — Cain’s a hot shot and Maier’s a slow roller — and Alcides Escobar grounded out to end the inning.
This wasn’t quite Game 7 of that 1991 World Series, when the Twins took down the Atlanta Braves 1-0 in 10 innings, but the crowd — paid attendance was 36,488 — emitted a lively cheer after Pavano’s escape.
The attempt to avoid reaching triple digits in the loss column provided some rather amusing drama to an otherwise-meaningless game. One local sports talk radio host even snarkily pushed the “Hunt for Hundred” campaign on Twitter and on the air so the Twins would have a glaringly large round number to stamp on this collosally unsuccessful season. One fan in the club seats held up a sign to honor the slogan.
But there were no Bronx-style cheers audible on this night. Pavano got a standing ovation as he finished a perfect ninth and walked to the dugout, and the roar was even louder when Plouffe’s bat hit the ball.
“We haven’t given them a very good show this year, but again tonight they showed up and packed it and they were standing on their feet at the end,” Gardenhire said. “That’s typical. You kind of expect that around here, but it sure makes you feel a lot better going into the offseason.”
John Gordon, the primary radio voice of the Twins since 1987, called his last game in the broadcast booth, which the team named after him in honor of his retirement. The Twins didn’t give him many highlights at all to narrate this year, but he choked up during a pregame ceremony and took off in a sidecar next to broadcast partner Dan Gladden’s motorcycle for a spin around the warning track to wave to the fans.
NOTES: The Twins were 60-102 in 1982, their worst season. … The Royals finished September 15-10.
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