Mauer, Span rally Twins past Oakland in opener at Target Field
By Jon Krawczynski
AP Baseball Writer
MINNEAPOLIS -- Joe Mauer and Denard Span delivered RBI singles in the eighth inning against the superb Brett Anderson to lift the Minnesota Twins to a 2-1 victory over the Oakland Athletics in their home opener on Friday.
The Twins trailed 1-0 heading into the eighth and were barely able to get the ball out of the infield against Anderson (0-1). But they put together four hits in the eighth and Joe Nathan recorded his first save at Target Field after missing all of last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Carl Pavano (1-1) gave up one run on four hits in eight innings to get the win.
Anderson gave up two runs on eight hits and struck out five in eight innings for the Athletics, but once again got little help from his struggling offense. The A's have scored just three runs in his two starts this season.
With an occasional sidearm delivery and a deft ability to change speeds, the lefty Anderson completely befuddled the Twins offense for seven innings. Two of the Twins' four hits never reached the outfield and he retired 14 straight hitters at one point.
Danny Valencia legged out Minnesota's third infield hit of the game with one out in the eighth and pinch-hitter Jason Kubel singled with two outs. Span's single scored Valencia to tie the game and Mauer followed with a scorcher past diving third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff to give Minnesota the lead.
The Twins opened the season figuring to rely on a deep lineup with accomplished hitters like Mauer, Justin Morneau, Jim Thome and Delmon Young to give their less-than-stellar starting rotation the run support it needs. But they scored just 19 runs in their six-game road trip to open the season.
They returned home to the place where they went 53-28 last season and were eager to start swinging now that those pretty, but pesky, trees behind the center-field wall were removed to make it easier for the hitters to pick up the ball out of the pitcher's hand.
The deforestation did little to help the Twins against Anderson, who recorded 12 groundball outs through seven innings.
Pavano is supposed to be the old, steady hand in the Twins' rotation, a guy who doesn't get rattled by charged-up environments like the home opener. But he got off to a shaky start in the first inning, walking Daric Barton, bouncing a wild pitch about five feet in front of home plate and then allowing Barton to take third when he threw a pickoff attempt into center field.
Barton scored on a sacrifice fly from David DeJesus.
The veteran settled down after that, allowing just three hits over his final seven innings to keep the Twins in the game.
NOTES: The Twins announced that 2B Tsuyoshi Nishioka's fractured left fibula will not need a cast or surgery. He will be out 4-6 weeks. ... Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said RHP Kevin Slowey was scheduled to get an MRI exam on Friday on his sore pitching arm and was not available out of the bullpen. ... Oakland manager Bob Geren said he planned to get OF Ryan Sweeney in the lineup on Saturday or Sunday. He hasn't started a game yet this season.