MINNEAPOLIS – A big hit from Joe Mauer. A clutch save from Joe Nathan.
The Minnesota Twins couldn't draw up a much better plan for their home opener.
Mauer and Denard Span delivered RBI singles in the eighth inning against the superb Brett Anderson and Nathan closed an emotional ninth inning to lift the Twins to a 2-1 victory over the Oakland Athletics 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 Nathan recorded his first save at Target Field after missing all of last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
"I was pretty calm until I got through the door and then the place started shaking," Nathan said. "The fans were definitely electric at that point, the loudest I've heard a crowd in this city. It kind of got me going a bit. Almost too much."
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.
"He pitched his butt off," A's catcher Kurt Suzuki said. "He kept them off balance, hit his spots, changed speeds well. We should have got a win for him."
With an occasional sidearm delivery and a deft ability to change speeds, the lefty Anderson completely befuddled the struggling 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 it and Mauer followed with a scorcher past diving third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff to give Minnesota the lead.
"We haven't been very good to start the season," Mauer said of the Twins' offense. "But to get a win like this, sometimes that changes things and guys can get on a roll."
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 have scored just 21 runs in their first seven games.
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 gave up a run in the first and you just try to match him pitch for pitch after that," Anderson said. "You give credit to him. He held us in check the rest of the way and I wasn't able to get it done in the eighth. It's frustrating from my standpoint that I wasn't able to hold the lead."
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.
Before the game, Nathan went out and sprinkled some dirt he took from the Metrodome mound on the mound at Target Field. It was something he wanted to do last season, but he blew out his elbow in spring training and never pitched.
"I just wanted to bring some of that magic, some of that luck from that place," Nathan said, "and bring it over here."
NOTES: The Twins announced that 2B Tsuyoshi Nishioka's fractured left fibula will not need a cast or surgery. There is still no timetable for his return. ... RHP Kevin Slowey had an MRI that revealed tendinitis in his right biceps. ... It was a sunny, comfortable 63 degrees at first pitch, but clouds set in about the fourth inning to chill the air a few degrees. ... 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.