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Twins Insider

La Velle E. Neal III and Phil Miller report on the Twins from wherever they make news

Postgame: A night, and a beer shower, Pat Dean will never forget

    SEATTLE — Three extras from a late-night victory:

    When the media walked into the clubhouse after Paul Molitor’s postgame press conference, Pat Dean walked past, dripping with beer and, it turns out, barbecue sauce, a mess created in celebration of the left-hander’s first career win.

    Dean had a night he’ll never forget, outpitching Felix Hernandez, whose domination of the Twins has become routinely brilliant over the past few years. Not only had the Twins not beaten King Felix in more than five years, three times since then they hadn’t even scored a run.

    But Dean, with a fastball that averaged 89 mph on Friday, just kept getting outs. He retired seven straight after Franklin Gutierrez’s opposite-field blast in the first inning, and retired the final 11 hitters he faced, too. He kept hitters off-balance by throwing sliders inside, and fastballs low.

    “He did a good job moving it around. Throwing strikes, pitching ahead in the count,” said catcher Kurt Suzuki. “When he needed a pitch, he made a pitch.”

    Dean’s wife and parents flew to Minneapolis for his first career start last Saturday against the Blue Jays, when he got a no-decision by allowing three hits and two runs over six innings. None came to Seattle, but here’s guessing some people stayed up late in Connecticut to watch the Boston College alum record win No. 1.

    Now the question becomes: When does he pitch again? Has Dean, who has given up fewer hits in his two starts than Hernandez did to the Twins on Friday, earned a few more starts? We’ll find out soon, because Kyle Gibson might be headed back to the rotation as soon as next week.

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    Trevor Plouffe’s right knee has been bothering him for a while, Paul Molitor said, and he tweaked it enough Friday that he had to come out of the game. “I think he could play if he had to,” the Twins manager said, but the team is concerned enough to send him for an MRI on Saturday.

    They won’t immediately summon another player, Molitor said, because the hope is that the sprain in his MCL ligament is mild enough that a day or two of rest will be enough. Plouffe has already been on the disabled list once this year.

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    Miguel Sano bashed a long home run in the second inning, and Joe Mauer drove an opposite-field homer into the bullpen in the seventh, another sign that the Twins’ offense may be awakening after a long springtime slumber. That’s five home runs in two games for the Twins, and Sano — now tied with Byung Ho Park for the team lead at nine apiece — has six since May 11.

    The Twins as a team have 41 hits, seven doubles and six home runs over their past four games, good for 22 runs. They’re also 6-1 at Safeco Field in their last seven games here.

    “I wasn’t sure how to manage at the end,” Molitor said. “I haven’t had a lot of five-run leads.” He’s right about that — this is the second-largest win of the season, behind only the 8-1 drubbing of the Brewers on April 21.

Big challenge for Twins' rookie: Outpitch King Felix

    SEATTLE — I asked Pat Dean who the best pitcher he’s ever been matched up against is, and he had to think about it for quite awhile. But we both agreed that the answer will get a lot easier after tonight’s game.

    Dean gets his second start tonight, and when he’s not pitching, Felix Hernandez will be. The King’s Court is already gathering in their usual left-field corner spot — hundreds of fans in bright yellow t-shirts, armed with K cards to wave when King Felix strikes someone out.

    Dean, who allowed two runs and just three hits over six innings last weekend against J.A. Happ and the Blue Jays, said he’s glad there will be an electric atmosphere in Safeco Field tonight. “It helps me, it really does. Seeing a guy pitching well makes me want to do the same thing,” said the 27-year-old lefthander. “I’m definitely excited for this game. … It’s going to be fun to watch him work.”

    King Felix, 4-3 this season, has allowed fewer home runs per nine innings against the Twins than any pitcher since 2005, and he’s registered more strikeouts per nine than any pitcher but Justin Verlander. Yet some of the current Twins have decent numbers against Hernandez — Jor Mauer is 14-for-41 (.341) with two home runs, while Trevor Plouffe is 6-for-11 (.545). But Brian Dozier is 2-for-11 (.182).

    Hernandez has shut out the Twins twice, and is 8-5 overall with a 1.93 ERA in 17 career starts.

    So, Pat Dean, have you come up with the best pitcher you’ve ever faced yet? “Yeah, I think so,” Dean said with a grin. “J.A. Happy.”

    Here are tonight’s lineups for the first of a three-game series:

 

TWINS

 

Nunez SS

Dozier 2B

Mauer 1B

Sano RF

Plouffe 3B

Grossman LF

Park DH

Suzuki C

Santana CF

 

Dean LHP

 

MARINERS

 

Aoki CF

Gutierrez RF

Cano 2B

Cruz DH

Lee 1B

Seager 3B

Iannetta C

Romero LF

Sardinas SS

 

Hernandez RHP