MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Willy Aybar's single off Matt Guerrier gave the Tampa Bay Rays a 10th-inning lead in a back-and-forth 5-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Thursday night.
Jon Rauch blew a save for the fourth time this season when Carl Crawford — who had four hits and an RBI — singled and scored on Evan Longoria's tying double in the ninth. The Rays were more supportive of starter Jeff Niemann, who watched them get no-hit in his last start by Arizona's Edwin Jackson.
Delmon Young homered, drove in two runs and prevented another with an inning-ending outfield assist against his former team, but Carl Pavano took his first no-decision of the season and his top two relievers — Rauch and Guerrier (1-3) — didn't hold up at the end.
Guerrier let the first three batters reach base and nearly watched the game unravel, when Aybar singled and Young's throw to third base beat Kelly Shoppach by a few yards. Third base umpire Alfonso Marquez ruled Michael Cuddyer didn't tag Shoppach, and manager Ron Gardenhire was ejected for arguing. Guerrier finished the inning and kept the call from padding the lead.
After reviving his career last season following that four-year failure with the Yankees, Pavano accepted a salary arbitration offer from the Twins and has given them their $7 million worth.
His performance in June featured four straight wins, including consecutive complete games in road victories over the Phillies and the Mets, about the only bright spot of a borderline bad month for Minnesota.
Pavano might owe it all to the mustache.
He got rid of the goatee and left the above-the-lip hair after a terrible start at Toronto on May 18, and since then he's 5-2 with a 2.64 ERA in eight starts and averaging just under eight innings per turn.
The awkward-looking, Inspector Clouseau-like mustache is threatening to surpass Joe Mauer's trademark sideburns in popularity, too. Fans are showing up at the stadium with replicas — one young man proudly pointed to his when pictured on the jumbo video screen — and Pavano's teammates have been applying the obligatory razzing.
They're plenty pleased with the way he's pitched, though, a confident example for the younger starting pitchers.
Pavano's scoreless innings streak ended at 16 on John Jaso's RBI single in the fourth, but Young — the formerly troubled prodigy who was traded by the Rays to the Twins before the 2008 season — fielded Aybar's single and fired a perfect throw to Mauer at the plate to get Matt Joyce on a close play and end the inning.
Shortstop Nick Punto cost Pavano an unearned run — just the second against the right-hander all season — with a two-out error in the fifth by fumbling a back-hand stab of Longoria's sharp grounder while Ben Zobrist scored.
Niemann went 6 2-3 innings and has finished at least the sixth in 15 straight starts.
Mauer started the eighth inning with a double to right and scored on a sacrifice fly by Jason Kubel, giving the Twins the lead that Rauch lost. Mauer hit three straight balls hard and deep to left, all caught by Crawford, and his batting average dipped below .300 briefly for the first time since April 7.
During the second at-bat, Mauer tried to drop a bunt down the third base line, but it drifted foul.
NOTES: The Rays kept CF B.J. Upton out of the lineup for a third straight game. Upton, who has a sore right quadriceps muscle, was available to play if needed, manager Joe Maddon said. ... Twins RHP Kevin Slowey was sore, but otherwise fine after taking a ball off his right ankle at the end of his start the day before. With no game on Monday, Gardenhire said Slowey could switch spots in the rotation with Pavano to give him an extra day to rest and keep Pavano on schedule. ... Twins IF Matt Tolbert's right middle finger is hurting after he fielded a ball in Wednesday's game, and Gardenhire said he could go on the DL. ... As fan voting for the All-Star game ended Thursday, Maddon offered a final plug for Crawford, who was third among AL outfielders in the most recently released results this week. "If he was able to be able to be seen more nationally, it would be a slam dunk," Maddon said. "He toils a little bit in the obscurity of where we work. I would really not understand why he would not be voted in. He's the kind of baseball player everybody likes to watch."