Twins rally to win home opener; error-home run costs Brewers

By KBJR News 1

April 9, 2011 Updated Apr 9, 2011 at 10:30 AM CDT

MINNEAPOLIS -- It was quite the way to start off Year 2 at Target Field.

The Twins appeared headed toward another disheartening early-season loss despite a solid effort from right-hander Carl Pavano. But their offense woke up just in time, much to the excitement of the sold-out crowd of 40,714 at the second home opener in the Twins' new ballpark on Friday.

Brett Anderson was simply dominant through seven scoreless innings, but the Twins rallied for an unlikely comeback victory keyed by RBI singles against the A's left-hander with two outs in the eighth inning from Denard Span and Joe Mauer to give the Twins a 2-1 victory on Friday.

"It was a battle," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Anderson is a very good pitcher, and Pavano went toe to toe with him. And it matters who is ahead at the end, and we had some big hits and some big at-bats so we were able to come out on top in a very well-pitched game by both sides. So it's an exciting win for us."

It was an exciting eighth inning for the Twins, who began their comeback with one out when Danny Valencia hit a ground ball just inside the third-base line and was able to beat the throw from third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff to become just the fifth player to reach base for the Twins against Anderson to that point.

"It was lucky, but I'll take it," Valencia said, grinning, "and I was able to spark that rally."

But even after Valencia's hit, it didn't appear promising for Minnesota as Luke Hughes lined out to left field for the second out of the inning.

Gardenhire then made what proved to be the key decision of the game, pinch-hitting Jason Kubel for shortstop Alexi Casilla despite Anderson being tough on left-handers and Kubel entering the matchup as a .238 hitter in his career against southpaws.

Kubel fell behind 0-2 -- he entered as a career .154 hitter in at-bats after falling behind by two strikes -- but he was able to watch a slider go for a ball before turning on a pitch from Anderson to single down the right-field line to put runners at the corners with two outs.

It set the stage for the game-tying hit from Denard Span, who hit an 0-1 fastball into right field to score Valencia and send pinch-runner Matt Tolbert to third base.

The momentum had clearly turned with Span's hit, and the Twins were happy to have their new two-hole hitter at the plate in Mauer, who shifted to that spot in the batting order in injured second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka's absence.

Mauer watched a strike go by from Anderson before hitting a slider on the outer half of the plate past a diving Kouzmanoff at third to provide the game-winning RBI hit for the second time in the last three games.

"Usually late in a game a guy starts to throw away from hitters, but that's one of my strengths," Mauer said. "So I was looking for something to drive the other way and I was able to get by the third baseman."

But the game wasn't quite over, as the Twins called on right-hander Joe Nathan to close it out in the ninth in his first appearance at Target Field after missing all of last season because of Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.

Nathan, though, was able to control his emotions and throw a scoreless ninth to pick up his his third save of the season.

"I really wanted to get this one done, obviously playing in front of the home crowd," Nathan said. "You definitely want to make sure you finish a win like that, especially after we came back."

The eighth-inning comeback and Nathan's save preserved a much-deserved win for Pavano, who allowed one run on just four hits and a walk over eight innings.

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers fell to 0-for-2 in terms of defensive efforts behind Randy Wolf, but the left-hander stood at his locker late Friday and took the blame.

Second baseman Rickie Weeks missed a popup and Wolf couldn't shut down the Cubs' ensuing five-run rally, a combination that sent the Brewers to a 7-4 loss against their Interstate 94 rivals at Miller Park.

Weeks did score a run for the sixth time in the Brewers' eight games, but the Cubs' second baseman had a much better night. Jeff Baker led Chicago's attack with four hits and four RBIs, including a go-ahead three-run home run in the decisive fourth inning that included the first of Weeks' two errors.

"I wouldn't replace any of the guys out there," said Wolf (0-2). "It's my job to make pitches, and whether or not there could be an error, it's my job to make the next pitch and get out of the inning. I wasn't able to do that, and I take full responsibility."

Prince Fielder hit his 100th Miller Park home run -- and his first at any venue this season -- and George Kottaras drove in two runs for the Brewers. But Weeks was slapped with a pair of errors, the most costly coming in the fourth when he misplayed Aramis Ramirez's popup and then watched the Cubs score five of their runs.

Courtesy: MLB.com