Chicago White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko makes an unsuccessful attempt for a sharp ground ball as Minnesota Twins' Alexi Casilla hits an RBI-double in the third inning.
One clear sign of success for Carl Pavano is an overloaded laundry cart in the Minnesota clubhouse.
Another is a bunch of groundballs. Finally, there's a game that lasts 2 hours and 6 minutes.
Pavano kept up his recent surge with an efficient six-hitter for the Twins in a 4-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday night, completing the game with three straight outs to strand runners at second and third.
"Just looking over at the other side, I wanted somebody who can spin the baseball," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Carl can spin the ball as well as anybody. I trust him. I trust him in those situations."
Gardenhire crept to the top step of the dugout after Juan Pierre's infield single and Alexei Ramirez's sharp double, but Pavano kept him in his place by striking out Carlos Quentin and making a quick grab of Paul Konerko's right-back-at-him line drive before getting A.J. Pierzynski to ground out and end the game.
Pavano (4-5) walked three, struck out five and recorded six one-pitch outs against the free-swinging White Sox, who had won nine of their previous 13 games. The right-hander is 2-0 with a 1.44 ERA over his last three starts, and the Twins have won 10 of their last 12 games.
"I feel like I'm settling in a little better as far as getting a little stronger and consistent with the things I'm trying to establish, and so is the team," Pavano said. "There's a lot of guys who have stepped in, because we have a lot of injuries, and picked up a lot of guys."
Delmon Young's two-run single capped a three-run second inning against Gavin Floyd (6-6), who also went the distance, but Pavano was the star.
"You've got to tip your hat when he does that," Pierzynski said.
Pavano prefers to feel as dry, fresh and comfortable as possible when he's on the mound, so throughout his career he's made a habit of changing undershirts between innings. He was working so fast in this game, keeping the White Sox guessing about pitch type and location, that he found himself out of breath to start the second after hustling to get back out and warmup.
But he found his groove just fine.
"Just go out there and put up solid performances and change shirts as much as possible," Pavano said, laughing at the mantra he coined for himself.
The series opener was wiped out by heavy rain and a thunderstorm on Tuesday, pushing starts back by one day for Floyd and Pavano. Batting practice was cut short by a downpour before this game, too, but the sky cleared and a rainbow appeared above the ballpark to set the stage for a beautiful -- if a bit cool -- early summer evening.
That's the kind of break the Twins have been enjoying lately, in contrast to all the struggles they endured in the first two months of the season.
The Twins stole five bases -- a career-high three by Michael Cuddyer -- and twice bunted for singles, the kind of scrappy approach they strayed from last season -- the style that has long drawn the respect and annoyance of manager Ozzie Guillen of the rival White Sox.
"They are after you no matter what and not afraid to play," Guillen said. "That's the reason they're in the pennant race every year."
After consecutive doubles by Ben Revere and Alexi Casilla in the second inning, Michael Cuddyer followed with a walk and teamed with Casilla on a double steal before Young's high-bouncing single stretched the lead to 3-0.
"Right now with the lineup that we're throwing out there, we've got to run and we've got to put pressure on the defense," Cuddyer said.
Floyd, who fell to 4-9 in his career against the Twins with a 5.10 ERA, pitched his first complete game this season. He gave up an RBI double to Danny Valencia in the eighth that padded the home team's lead. Floyd walked two and struck out six, allowing 11 hits.
Starting pitching isn't the problem for the White Sox.
Konerko is still playing at an All-Star level, but the prize addition to this year's team, Adam Dunn, has disappointed so far. Alex Rios, another expensive, important part of the lineup, has been in a season-long slump, too.