MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Trevor Plouffe’s RBI single with two outs in the ninth inning gave Carl Pavano and the Twins a 1-0 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday, helping Minnesota stave off a 100-loss season.
Pavano (9-13) went the distance for the win, the first time he pitched nine scoreless innings since July 22, 2010. He gave up five hits and struck out three to help the Twins finish with two straight wins, their first consecutive victories since Aug. 31 and Sept. 2.
Bruce Chen pitched eight shutout innings against the Twins for the second time this month, and the Royals turned to Blake Wood (5-3) for the ninth. Pinch-hitter Denard Span hit a one-out double, took third on a groundout and trotted home on Plouffe’s sharp single to left.
Plouffe raced around first base with his teammates chasing him from the dugout for a celebratory pileup, completing a season that was anything but fun. The Twins (63-99) still finished with the second-worst record in their 51 years in Minnesota.
Chen gave up eight hits, struck out four and walked two, capping a solid season for the crafty lefty. The Twins were 0 for 13 with runners in scoring position until Plouffe’s winner.
The Royals finished 71-91, a slight improvement from last season, but their cadre of rising stars gives them plenty of eagerness for 2012.
First baseman Eric Hosmer made himself a candidate for AL Rookie of the Year with a .293 batting average, 19 home runs and 78 RBIs, and center fielder Melky Cabrera had an exceptional season.
Kansas City threatened in the eighth. Mike Moustakas led off with a high fly down the line that right fielder Michael Cuddyer let bounce off the wall, then skip by him. The Royals were cajoling Moustakas from the dugout to try for an inside-the-park homer, but he heeded third base coach Eddie Rodriguez’s stop sign and settled for a triple.
But Lorenzo Cain and Mitch Maier were each retired on comebackers to the mound — Cain’s a hot shot and Maier’s a slow roller — and Alcides Escobar grounded out to end the inning.
This wasn’t quite Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, when the Twins took down the Atlanta Braves 1-0 in 10 innings, but the crowd — paid attendance was 36,488 — emitted a lively cheer after Pavano’s escape.
The attempt to avoid reaching triple digits in the loss column provided some rather amusing drama to an otherwise-meaningless game. One local sports talk radio host even snarkily pushed the “Hunt for Hundred” campaign on Twitter and on the air so the Twins would have a glaringly large round number to stamp on this collosally unsuccessful season. One fan in the club seats held up a sign to honor the slogan.
But there were no Bronx-style cheers audible on this night. Pavano got a standing ovation as he finished a perfect ninth and walked to the dugout, and the roar was even louder when Plouffe’s bat hit the ball.
John Gordon, the primary radio voice of the Twins since 1987, called his last game in the broadcast booth, which the team named after him in honor of his retirement. The Twins didn’t give him many highlights at all to narrate this year, but he choked up during a pregame ceremony and took off in a sidecar next to broadcast partner Dan Gladden’s motorcycle for a spin around the warning track to wave to the fans.
NOTES — Pavano picked Moustakas off second to end the fifth after he stole that base, and Jarrod Dyson was caught stealing after a two-out single in the third inning for the Royals. ... Chen was 12-8 this season. ... The Twins were 60-102 in 1982, their worst season.