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08/20/08 1:09 AM ET
Offense backs up Slowey's gem
Right-hander strikes out 12 as Twins pummel Athletics
By Thor Nystrom / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- On Aug. 19, 2007, Minnesota starter Johan Santana was blowing away Texas with a lethal barrage of filthy pitches. The two-time Cy Young winner struck out a Twins franchise-record 17 hitters in eight innings of a 1-0 victory. Exactly one year later Kevin Slowey took the mound. He didn't blow anyone away. He didn't elicit shakes of the head from baffled A's hitters. Instead, Slowey stuck to his usual script -- throwing strikes and attacking hitters -- while racking up a career-high 12 strikeouts as Minnesota drilled Oakland, 13-2. It was the most whiffs by a Twins pitcher since Santana's gem. Slowey maxed out in the low-90's, but effectively mixed four pitches and threw 82 of his 110 pitches for strikes. "I'd love to throw 96-97 [mph], but I definitely don't," Slowey said. "I don't have a slider like Joe Nathan, [either], but [pitching coach Rick Anderson] and [manager Ron Gardenhire] and [backup catcher Mike Redmond] are huge proponents of location over velocity." Slowey allowed only one earned run on five hits while not walking a batter in seven innings to earn the victory. He received a standing ovation from the announced crowd of 35,256 as he walked back to the dugout after the top of the seventh inning. The right-hander tipped his cap to acknowledge the fans. The Twins' bats gave Slowey plenty of run support as they knocked around A's starter Sean Gallagher to the tune of 10 earned runs in five innings. Brian Buscher began the barrage with a two-run homer over the right-field baggie in the second to give Minnesota its first lead. "I had two strikes on me -- trying to put something in play, and got it up in the air," Buscher said. Gallagher's struggles helped Carlos Gomez break out of a prolonged funk after not starting in consecutive games. Minnesota's young center fielder turned on an inside slider and belted it over the left-field wall for a two-run homer in the fifth. The home run snapped a 0-for-14 stretch for Gomez and was his first round-tripper since June 6 at Chicago -- a span of 224 at-bats. "We finally had to make him smile," Gardenhire said. "He didn't even want to smile when he was coming in. He was trying to act all serious. We told him: 'Smile, son. That's a home run.' That was nice to see. He worked really hard in extra BP today staying on the ball. The guy hung a breaking ball, and he deposited it in the seats. That may be a boost for him." Buscher went 3-for-4 and tied a career high with five RBIs. The success was especially surprising because Buscher and Denard Span were not feeling well prior to the game. Both had upset stomachs, but didn't carry the effects onto the field. Span's RBI triple to right-center field came two batters after Buscher's homer. Buscher joked after the game that the ailments helped them play better. Every Twins starter recorded at least one hit. "On and on, up and down the lineup, we had a bunch of guys whacking the ball around and running around," Gardenhire said. The Twins had built a 6-1 lead by the third inning, and Slowey cruised from there. "You get an opportunity when we get up big like that to really pound the strike zone," Slowey said. "He pitched a real good game," A's manager Bob Geren said. "He got a big lead and did what you're supposed to do: be aggressive." Slowey elicited 10 swinging strikeouts. He estimated that he shook off catcher Joe Mauer only twice during the game. The right-hander kept the ball down throughout the night, stymieing an A's team that has struggled mightily in the 30 games since the All-Star break. In that time, Oakland is 6-24, while batting .217 and averaging 2.77 runs per game. The win helps the Twins keep pace in the AL Central race with the White Sox, who also won. "These are games that we need to win," Span said. "We're playing a team that is struggling a little bit this year. Games like this are games we're supposed to win. It's hard to get up for games like this, and we came out and played real well."
Thor Nystrom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.