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09/19/07 12:31 AM ET
Silva teams with 'pen to oust Rangers
Hunter drives in two; relievers throw three scoreless frames
By Kelly Thesier / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- Carlos Silva is well aware that his future as a Twin is uncertain. The right-hander is a free agent at the end of this season, and with a crowded race already emerging for next year's rotation, it's unclear if the Twins will try to re-sign him this offseason. But for what may have been his last start at the Metrodome, Silva delivered a strong finish on Tuesday night, allowing just two runs on seven hits over six innings in a 4-2 victory over the Rangers. "It was on my mind," Silva said of the possibility it was his last start. "But you know what -- whatever happens, happens. I would love to play for this team forever. But if it's not like that, I have a family to take care of too, so we have to move on and continue playing." Silva entered this season with one goal in mind, and that was to show the fans that he was a different pitcher from the one they saw in 2006. Consistency was not Silva's strong point last year. But this season, despite his sub-.500 record, Silva has made a habit of delivering quality starts, like he did in his outing on Tuesday. Coming off a shortened start in Kansas City in which he lasted just two innings due to a sore right groin, Silva was determined not to let the injury prevent him from delivering another long outing. And it didn't. The two-run, six-inning effort was Silva's 18th quality start of the season, the most he's ever produced in a single season. The majority of those quality starts have come from Silva's ability to work his way out of some jams, and he did that against the Rangers. With the Twins leading, 3-1, at the start of the sixth, Silva (12-14) worked his way into quite a jam. After giving up one bases-loaded single to pull Texas within one run, Silva appeared to be headed for more trouble with the bases loaded and just one out. Yet a tremendous play by his middle infield got Silva out of the inning with minimal damage. Travis Metcalf hit a hard ground ball up the middle that shortstop Jason Bartlett fielded and flipped to second baseman Nick Punto for one out. Punto then finished off the double play with a hard throw to Justin Morneau at first that just beat out Metcalf. Silva was clearly excited by the play, as he pumped his fist while walking off the mound. "I thought that was the big play of the game," Silva said. "That double play was so huge. That's why I was so excited." The fans certainly seemed to appreciate Silva's effort and emotion, giving the pitcher an ovation when he came off the mound. It was that response that his manager really appreciated, considering the circumstances Silva has faced over the past two seasons. "We all know what it was like last year, he struggled and he took a lot of heat and even in Spring Training, I think a lot of people gave him a lot of heat," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "You have to give opportunities and chances to people who have courage, and he's a big, strong guy. "We were hoping we could get something like this out of him, and I think we've gotten exactly what we want. It's been a good season up to this point, with him attacking the hitters and keeping us in ballgames." Silva's effort was enough to earn the victory, thanks to some help from the offense. The Twins were able to tag Rangers pitcher Kevin Millwood (9-13) for four runs over his 6 2/3 innings. But only two of those runs were earned due to a rough night in the field for Michael Young. The Rangers shortstop recorded three errors in the game, including two in the third inning that allowed two runs to score. Torii Hunter drove in one of those runs in the third with a single to center field. It was Hunter's 103rd RBI of the season, setting a new career high for the center fielder. Hunter brought that number to 104 in the seventh inning with a one-out double off the right-field baggie to score Jason Kubel from second. "Coming into the season, you have individual goals, and one of mine was to have 100 RBIs," Hunter said. "So 104, a career high, is pretty nice. But I'm not stopping there." Neither is Silva. With two starts remaining, the pitcher now has a chance to finish the year with a .500 record. And considering that the club is also trying to finish with a .500 record, Silva's message for the rest of the year echoed the sentiment of all the Twins. "I want to finish strong," Silva said. "I don't care if we're in or we're out. I want to pitch the same game and stay strong out there. That's big for me."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.