Game 11: Hughes gives Twins the win in extras

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Carl Pavano had his best outing of the spring, and Luke Hughes hit a solo homer in the 10th inning to help lead the Twins to a 2-1 win over the Rays at Charlotte Sports Park.

With their third straight win, the Twins improved to 6-5 on the season. They host the split-squad Blue Jays on Tuesday at Hammond Stadium.

What went right: Pavano looked sharp against the Rays in his third Grapefruit League start, surrendering one run on four hits over four innings. He got ahead of hitters, as he threw first-pitch strikes to 12 of the 15 batters he faced.

Pavano, who threw 60 pitches, gave up his lone run on a single from Desmond Jennings after a double from Jose Lobaton. He also worked well with catcher Ryan Doumit, who threw out two attempting base stealers. The only misplay was when Jennings stole second despite a pitchout from Pavano, as the throw from Doumit sailed high.

Hughes also showed he’s progressing well in his recovery from a strained right shoulder suffered in a home-plate collision in his native Australia in early February. He played all 10 innings at second base, and went 2-for-4 at the plate, including the game-winning homer in the 10th off right-hander Albert Suarez.

“I think that’s a big lift for him,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He’s been fighting through it because of the shoulder thing. He’s been set back a ways, so that’s a big deal for him hitting that homer.”

Shortstop Brian Dozier also had a good day at the plate, going 2-for-4 with a walk. He was robbed of a homer by the umpires in the first inning, when his deep drive hit the wooden deck above the left-field fence but it was ruled in-play. He settled for a triple off Tampa Bay’s projected Opening Day starter James Shields.

The bullpen also continued to impress, as Glen Perkins, Phil Dumatrait, Jason Bulger, Liam Hendriks, Tyler Robertson and Daryl Thompson each threw a scoreless frame. It was good to see Bulger get through an inning, as he entered the game with an 81.00 ERA.

What went wrong: It might be nitpicking in a win, but the offense didn’t exactly light up the scoreboard with two runs in 10 innings.

Joe Mauer, serving as designated hitter while playing in his first road game, went 0-for-2 with a walk and is batting .200 this spring. Trevor Plouffe went 0-for-4 with a strikeout to see his batting average drop to .118.

But the defense was solid yet again — outside of the botched pitchout — and the Twins have pitched well over their last five games.

What they said: “He got the ball and asked me if I’d sign it for him,” Gardenhire said about Bulger’s scoreless inning. “He said, ‘That’s the first time all spring you haven’t taken it from me.’ That’s entertainment.”

What’s next: Left-hander Francisco Liriano is set to make his third Grapefruit League start on Tuesday against the split-squad Blue Jays at 12:05 p.m. CT at Hammond Stadium. Lirano has yet to give up a run over five innings in Spring Training. Jared Burton, Matt Maloney and Sam Deduno are also scheduled to pitch for the Twins. Left-hander Brett Cecil starts for Toronto.

Injury update: Center fielder Denard Span stayed back at the club’s Spring Training complex on Monday to take some swings in the cage and see a chiropractor after missing Sunday’s game with neck stiffness. Span, who said the injury is not related to the concussion-like symptoms that plagued him last year, could return to the lineup on Tuesday. … Infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka missed Monday’s game with a sprained left pinkie, and remains day to day.

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