Carl Pavano had nothing to prove to an unforgiving Yankee Stadium crowd. He wanted to get the Minnesota Twins back on track.
In only two batters, it looked as if his plan had derailed.
Then something happened that Yankees fans rarely got to see in his four injury-wrecked years in New York: Pavano found a rhythm and was superb through the seventh inning, leading the Twins to a 7-3 victory Monday night that ended their three-game skid.
”It wasn’t about coming in here and putting everything behind me. Everything I went through is behind me,” he said. ”It was coming in here and getting this team on track.”
Justin Morneau played in the field for the first time this season and hit a long homer for the Twins. Joe Mauer had three hits, including two doubles, and every position player had a hit in a tweaked Minnesota lineup.
The Twins won for just the sixth time in 34 regular-season games in the Bronx since Ron Gardenhire took over as manager in 2002. They were also swept by the Yankees in 2009 and `10 playoffs.
”It’s a new season,” Gardenhire said. ”We’re 1-0 at Yankee Stadium.”
In just his second outing in New York since his tenure with the Yankees ended after the 2008 season, Pavano (1-1) gave up three runs and seven hits. He struck out six and walked one.
Yankees fans showed they can hold a grudge. They were relentless with their boos when Pavano was introduced before the game. After a rocky first, in which he gave up back-to-back homers to Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson to start the inning, Pavano mostly hushed the Yankees’ bats.
”For him to come out in a hostile environment then go out and pitch the way he did, I was real proud of him,” Twins catcher Ryan Doumit said.
Added Jeter: ”Carl has always been a good pitcher. When he’s healthy, he pitches well.”
Gardenhire tried generating some offense by splitting his lefty-hitting M&M boys in the lineup for the first time since 2008, according to STATS LLC. Mauer hit third as the designated hitter and Morneau moved down to fifth and played first base with Josh Willingham taking over the cleanup spot. Morneau had been the DH in the Twins first nine games as he is being brought back slowly from injuries, including a concussion that limited him to 69 games last year.
”Morny’s got a nice look on his face,” Gardenhire said. ”He’s enjoying the game of baseball.”
The adjustment worked right off the bat with Willingham driving in Mauer with a single in the first. In fact, the Twins had five straight hits after Freddy Garcia (0-1) struck out Denard Span looking to start the game.
Mauer doubled after Jamey Carroll singled and was caught stealing. Morneau followed Willingham with a single and Doumit had an RBI hit to make it 2-0.
But Pavano gave it right back.
Jeter learned earlier Monday that he was being given an honorary doctorate from Siena, a college in Loudonville, N.Y., then homered – his third – leading off. Granderson followed Jeter’s drive with another into the right-field seats for the Yankees’ first back-to-back homers to start a game since September 2005, when Jeter and Robinson Cano did it.
Alex Rodriguez beat out an infield hit and advanced to second on third baseman Danny Valencia’s errant throw. He scored on Mark Teixeira’s single for a 3-2 lead.
Alexi Casilla doubled with one out in the fifth to snap a string of 11 straight outs by the Twins that started after the five hits in a row. Carroll followed with a run-scoring single and Mauer an RBI double to give Minnesota the lead. Morneau led off the sixth with a drive into the Yankees bullpen for a 5-3 lead. An out later, Garcia was lifted to boos.
While he had better control in this start after a five wild-pitch performance in his first outing, Garcia gave up nine hits and five runs. He struck out five without walking a batter.
”They have some pretty good hitters now, you got to make good pitches to get those guys out,” Garcia said.
With Andy Pettitte working his way back from retirement and Michael Pineda rehabbing his shoulder, Garcia could be losing his grip on a rotation spot.
NOTES: Granderson raced into the left-center field gap to make a sensational catch on a drive by Morneau. … Twins LHP Glen Perkins had an MRI exam that showed some tenderness in his forearm. He will remain back in Minnesota for two more days before deciding if any further action is needed. … Jeter’s leadoff homer was his 26th, extending his Yankees record.