SEATTLE -- Trevor May got Austin Jackson to strike out looking to start the bottom of the first inning on Saturday, and some cheers went up around Safeco Field.
Oh yeah, Longview, Wash., was in the house on Saturday. As family and friends took the two-hour drive north to watch May, a star at Kelso High there, pitch in Safeco for the first time as a Twin.
May felt that he would be able to control his emotions yet take in the atmosphere on such a big day for him.
The big day ended up being an abbreviated one, as he had to leave with one out in the fourth inning after a line drive off Kyle Seager's bat struck him in his precious pitching elbow. About 150 friends and family were at Safeco to watch him pitch for the first time as a Twin, and they had to watch him walk off the field with the trainer.
``It's a little scary at first,'' May said of the moment he left the game. ``I had never been hit on the elbow. I knew just by all the testing and stuff that it was going to be OK. I was a little frustrated. I felt like I was starting to get into a little bit of a groove there. When those things happen you have to run with them. It was unfortunate I could not continue with that.''
The Twins bullpen was able to finish what May started. The offense started spraying hits around the park. The Twins went on to win 8-5, as Stauffer got his first win as a Twin with two innings of work. The Twins, with a win on Sunday can win the three-game series and recover to have a 3-3 road trip.
May's homecoming was ruined when his 1-0 pitch to Seager in the fifth inning came right back at him and nailed him in the elbow.
May took the shot, chased after the ball when it deflected and threw to first to retire Seager. But he winced, grimaced and squirmed in pain as he tried to shake it off. Head trainer Dave Pruemer rushed to his aid. After a few minutes, May was removed from the game.
X-Rays were negative, and May is day-to-day with a right elbow contusion. Righthander Ricky Nolasco, who will make a rehabilitation start on Sunday at Class A Cedar Rapids, would have to pitch on three days rest to replace May, and the Twins aren't interested in doing that. So there will have to be another option.
Twins manager Paul Molitor said he has a couple days to play with before he makes an adjustment to the rotation.
``It’s always scary when your pitchers get hit like that, especially when it is their throwing arm is involved,'' Molitor said. ``It was good news he didn't’t have to worry about any breaks or anything like that.’’
May wasn't around to see the Twins break the game open in the middle innings and pull away to the win. Eduardo Escobar hit his first homer of the season and three other Twins had two hits each.
The Twins loaded the bases with one out in the first inning but mustered one run, on Nunez's walk. May was shaky in his first inning. Giving up a single to Seth Smith, walking Robinson Cano after being ahead 0-2 then giving up a two-run double to Nelson Cruz.
But May was markedly better the next two innings, attacking the strike zone like he promised to. He struck out the side in the second then left a runner on first in the third inning. Of the 28 pitches he threw over those two innings, 24 were strikes.
For his improved work, May entered the fourth with a tie game, thanks to Escobar's home run over the left-center field wall. Escobar told Dustin Morse, the Twins director of communications, that he was going deep on Saturday - and was prepared to do interviews in English. Then he jumped on a 3-2 fastball from Paxton.
But May had to yield to Tim Stauffer when he was hit by the line drive. The Twins bats got going, as Nunez and Kurt Suzuki hit RBI singles in the fifth to give the Twins a 4-2 lead. An RBI double by Torii Hunter and RBI single to Joe Mauer in the sixth made it 6-2. Seattle got a run back in the sixth, but the Twins scored two in the seventh on a RBI single by Shane Robinson and RBI double by Brian Dozier to make it 8-3.
``We talk about if we are going to be effective offensively it is going to be balanced,'' Molitor said, ``and guys, I don’t think they care too much where they hit, they just look (at the lineup) and go play.’’
Six relievers were needed to hold off Seattle, but the closest the Mariners got was three, after Austin Jackson hit a two-run homer off of Aaron Thompson in the seventh. Glen Perkins pitched the ninth and earned his fourth save.
Good things: Stauffer was 89-90 with his fastball throughout this outing, still a couple mph below his average in recent seasons but it appears to be creeping upward. The fact he was able to get through two innings, giving up one run, was satisfactory to a club that has had a hard time finding spots for him to pitch in.
Also, Los Dos Eduardos - Escobar and Nunez - and Shane Robinson contributed offensively. You want your bench to have an impact when called upon.
Bad things: Kennys Vargas will not be in the starting lineup tomorrow after going 0-for-5 with four strikeouts. Some of his swings would have been fine for cricket, but not baseball.
``Overall, as of late, we have had a little more confidence from the right side,'' Molitor said of Vargas. ``Tonight, it was the same thing we saw from the left hand side. He's expanded the zone. He's not recognizing the off speed pitches. Probably going to back him off tomorrow.''
The Will to win: Columnist George Will attended the game and sat near the Twins dugout. ``I went over and said hello,'' Molitor said.
There's a rumor that there's some kind of Twins connection with Will but that has not been discovered yet. The political columnist is an avid baseball fan and has written two top selling books on baseball.
``He's an enjoyable guy to listen to,'' said Molitor, who heard Will speak in the Twins Cities a few years back. Apparently, Sid was there.