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Twins Beat Athletics, 2-1, On Joe Mauer Single

We had a good old-fashioned pitcher's duel today at Target Field, and after seven innings of not doing a whole heck of a lot, the Minnesota Twins managed to get it together when it mattered the most, plating two runs in the eighth inning and defeating the Oakland Athletics, 2-1, in Friday's home opener.

Carl Pavano had an adventurous first inning, to say the least. After retiring Coco Crisp flew out to start the game, Pavano walked Oakland first baseman Daric Barton. Barton then moved to second on a Pavano wild pitch, and then to third when Pavano attempted to pick Barton off of second and threw the ball into center field. Barton would then score on David Dejesus' sacrifice fly, and the Athletics had an early 1-0 lead.

Pavano was masterful the rest of the way, however, pitching eight innings and only allowing three Oakland hits in his final seven innings of work. The trouble was that he was being matched, zero for zero, by Athletics' left-hander Brett Anderson, who kept the Twins off of the scoreboard for the first seven innings of today's game.

However, in the eighth, the Twins made some headway. After Jim Thome struck out to start the inning, Danny Valencia reached on an infield single. Luke Hughes, who was called up last night after the injury to Tsuyoshi Nishioka and started today at second base, then flew out to left for the second out, and Jason Kubel was called upon to pinch-hit for Alexi Casilla.

Kubel singled to right field, moving Valencia to third, and was immediately lifted for pinch-runner Matt Tolbert. Denard Span then singled to right, plating Valencia, and moving Tolbert to third. Joe Mauer then stepped to the plate and managed to get one past Oakland third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff for a single to left, scoring Tolbert and giving the Twins a 2-1 lead. The Twins were looking for more, but Athletics' left fielder Josh Willingham made a great diving catch to rob Justin Morneau of a hit.

Joe Nathan came in for the ninth, allowing one hit. . .a single off of the glove of Hughes by David Dejesus. . .and striking out one for his third save in as many opportunities in 2011. Pavano got credit for the victory, moving his 2011 record to 1-1 on the season. Anderson took the loss, despite pitching a complete game, dropping his record on the year to 0-1.

The same two teams will get together at Target Field tomorrow. The pitching match-up will see the Athletics send left-hander Gio Gonzalez (1-0, 1.29 ERA) to the mound against Twins' righty Nick Blackburn (1-0, 1.59). Start time at Target Field for tomorrow's match-up is 6:10 PM Central time.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.