MINNEAPOLIS - Leave it to Joe.
The Minnesota Twins franchise player finally gave the home-opening crowd something to cheer about.
Joe Mauer's two-out single to left field plated pinch runner Matt Tolbert as the Twins rallied for a 2-1 victory Friday at Target Field.
Minnesota’s Joe Mauer (7) hits an RBI-single to take the lead 2-1 against Oakland catcher Kurt Suzuki during the eighth inning of a baseball game on Friday in Minneapolis, Minn. The Twins defeated the Athletics 2-1.
The line drive capped a four-hit inning and helped earn Minnesota starter Carl Pavano, who went eight innings, the win.
Until that point, the capacity crowd of 40,714 didn't have much to get excited about.
Oakland starter Brett Anderson had silenced the Twins' bats, allowing just four singles and no runs through seven innings.
"It was a battle," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Anderson's a real good pitcher. He and (Pavano) went toe-to-toe. We got some big at-bats and big hits. The crowd was great here and packed. Just like we remembered it last year."
The Twins finally got to the 23-year old lefthander in the bottom of the eighth.
Danny Valencia earned a one-out single. After Luke Hughes flied out, the Twins got a two-out rally brewing. Jason Kubel entered as a pinch hitter for second baseman Alexi Casilla and pushed a two-strike single through the right side. He was replaced by Tolbert to pinch run. The Twins plated their first run of the game and knotted it at 1-1 when Denard Span singled down the right-field line, scoring Valencia.
Span considered stretching trying to stretch the single into a double and was nearly picked off back at first base. Tolbert moved to third on the play and gave the Twins the lead the very next batter on Mauer's game-winning RBI.
The Twins (3-4) offense has scuffled in its first seven games.
Regulars Michael Cuddyer (.091), Delmon Young (.200), Justin Morneau (.217), Valencia (.130) and Mauer (.227) are off to slow starts.
But Mauer said Saturday's rally could spark some improved batting.
"We haven't been very good," he said. "You get a win like this, sometimes it changes things."
Mauer, who went with the outside pitch, said he expected it.
"He's got great stuff, a great breaking ball," Mauer said. "Late in the game, pitchers try to go away from hitters. That's one of my strengths and I just tried to go with it."
Aside from the eighth, hitting highlights were few and far between for Minnesota. The Twins garnered just eight singles off Anderson.
The Twins pitching staff, on the other hand, enjoyed a solid day.
Pavano (1-1) gave up a run in the first and was solid from there. He allowed just four hits and threw 106 pitches.
In the first, he allowed a one-out walk to Daric Barton, the only walk he allowed all game.
Barton moved to second on a wild pitch. Pavano unsuccessfully tried to pick him off at second, and Barton moved to third on the throwing error and scored on a sacrifice fly by David DeJesus. A hit later in the inning by Josh Willingham rendered it an earned run.
From that point, Pavano settled in as his nerves dissipated.
"The first time home, it doesn't matter how long you've been in the game, you're anxious and you want to do well," Pavano said. "I'm the same person every start, I want to compete and I was more anxious because I fell on my face (in allowing seven earned runs in just four innings in the season opener) in Toronto. I just tried to slow down."
Another pitching highlight came from closer Joe Nathan, who came out of the bullpen to a rousing ovation in the ninth,
He gave up a hard hit that second baseman Luke Hughes couldn't corral with one out before striking out Willingham and getting Hideki Matsui to pop out to end the game. That earned Nathan his third save of season after suffering season-ending Tommy John surgery at the end of his 2010 campaign.
The Twins announced Friday that the fibular fracture suffered by rookie second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka would not need either a cast or surgery. He will be on crutches until the soreness subsides and Gardenhire said after the game that for 4-6 weeks is the best case scenario.