Craig scores winner for Cardinals on wild pitch

Sunday, March 13, 2011

JUPITER, Fla. -- Carl Pavano appears to be ready for his opening day start.

The Twins right-hander pitched four more scoreless innings, running his spring streak to 13, but the Minnesota Twins lost 3-2 to the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday.

Pavano was pitching on three days' rest to line him up for the Twins' April 1 opener at Toronto. He tossed 57 pitches, 40 for strikes.

"I'm where I need to be for sure," Pavano said. "I don't know where my velocity is right now, but as far as commanding the fastball and commanding my changeup, I'd like to see my slider be more consistent, but it's pretty much where it always is right now. I feel good."

Pavano allowed three singles and two doubles after giving up just four hits in his first three outings.

But he was able to make pitches when he needed and received help from his infield, which turned three double plays.

"I put the ball in play a lot and these guys are sucking up grinders," said Pavano, who re-signed with the Twins for two years and $16.5 million this winter. "Double plays are huge. I'm the kind of guy that if I throw 20 or 30 pitches in an inning, with that many balls in play, a lot of things are going to happen."

Cardinals shortstop Ryan Theriot was stranded after leading off the first with a double, and Pavano induced double-play balls from Yadier Molina, Theriot and Albert Pujols in the next three innings. Matt Holliday doubled with two outs in the fourth inning, but Lance Berkman grounded out to second to end the threat.

Pavano struck out two and didn't walk a batter. He now has seven strikeouts and one walk. Pavano did say he was a little "gassed" in his final inning.

"He looked great," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He got through today on four days. Now he can go back to five and be a happy camper again."

Cardinals starter Jake Westbrook allowed a run on six hits and a walk in four innings. Westbrook threw 71 pitches.

"I would have definitely liked to get more innings out of that many pitches," Westbrook said. "It was kind of a battle all day."

Westbrook was pleased he "minimized the damage" by allowing just the one run, which scored on a Trevor Plouffe sacrifice fly in the second inning.

"It's still a progression," Westbrook said. "I'm still getting all my pitches down. I still feel great. The key for me is I still feel like I can keep going out there, even with 71 pitches and that's a good feeling."

The Cardinals won the game on a walk-off wild pitch by Chuck James. Allen Craig led off the ninth with a single, advanced to second on a wild pitch and was sacrificed to third by Jon Jay before scoring.

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