The proceedings were quiet in the early going -- nothing new for the Twins as of late. Mariners left-hander Jason Vargas had them tied in knots through the first six innings, while the Seattle bats got going against Pavano in a two-run fifth.
The Mariners took advantage of three doubles -- a leadoff two-base hit by Jesus Montero, followed by RBI doubles by Kyle Seager and, two batters later, Mike Carp. And the way the Twins were failing to get on base, it seemed like it might be enough ... again.
But the Twins finally sprung to life in the seventh. After Chris Parmelee's one-out double to left-center chased Vargas, the Twins greeted reliever Tom Wilhelmsen with two consecutive walks to load the bases before catching a major break. The player who drew the second walk, Trevor Plouffe, was a pinch-hitter for starting catcher Drew Butera, and, because new outfielder Erik Komatsu won't join the Twins until Saturday, the last position player on acting manager Scott Ullger's bench.
"I told them when we put Plouffe in, 'Don't argue with the umps,'" Ullger said. "We've got nobody on the bench."
But Plouffe's tough at-bat set up the next hitter, Denard Span, who hit a comebacker that Wilhelmsen bare-handed. It looked like the righty had plenty of time to throw home to nail Parmelee, but the pitcher spun around, tried to get the force play at second base. He threw wide right of the bag, allowing the run to score and the bases to remain loaded. Jamey Carroll then tied the game at 2 with a 4-3 fielder's choice, and the Twins went ahead for good on Joe Mauer's RBI single up the middle off Seattle reliever Charlie Furbush.
"It takes the monkey off your back," said Ullger, the bench coach who's skippering the Twins over the weekend while manager Ron Gardenhire attends his daughter's college graduation back in Minneapolis.
"You put added pressure on yourself to score runs -- and we were going to try to manufacture runs if we weren't able to score runs. But fortunately, we had some good-at bats and got three."
Meanwhile, Pavano did his job. The veteran looked strong through six, not walking a batter.
"I had Carl over in Cleveland; he knows how to pitch," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "He knows how to cut the ball, sink the ball, he has good command. He's a smart veteran pitcher, and he pitched a good ballgame tonight."
He was also removed after throwing only 69 pitches. It was a curious decision, but Ullger and pitching coach Rick Anderson decided that the elapsed time of the Twins' pivotal seventh with Pavano sitting on the bench, which Ullger estimated at 30-35 minutes, was enough to warrant turning the game over to the bullpen.
"That's their decision," Pavano said. "I don't have to be happy with it, but I've got to respect it. ... You can fight as much as you want. Once they make up their mind, I know that's where it's at."
Fortunately for Pavano and the Twins, it worked. The relief triumvirate of Brian Duensing (seventh), Glen Perkins (eighth) and closer Matt Capps (ninth) shined with three perfect innings that included a combined five strikeouts.
The Twins improved their record to 7-18 and will try to keep the momentum going on Saturday, when they face Mariners ace Felix Hernandez. Pavano said the team needs to just do what he did on Friday -- get back to basics.
"I think if you get caught up in the highs and lows of when the team's going good and when the team's doing bad [and you feel like], you've got to do better, I think you get caught up in the wrong things," Pavano said.
"You end up making things more complicated. If you just take a simple frame of mind every time out, it helps ... a lot."