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Twins win in pain

Rally in 15th inning beats Cleveland, but it was costly

MINNEAPOLIS -- Those; repeated thuds heard at the Metrodome last night were the result of Twins upper management leaping from their private box and splattering onto the concourse.

In the third inning, as the crowd gasped in horror, Joe Mauer limped off the field, suffering from a "mild left knee sprain." Thud.

In the fifth, starting pitcher Johan Santana departed from the contest. The oft-injured Santana came down with "left forearm spasms." Thud.

In the 11th, Torii Hunter grabbed his right leg after rapping a single up the middle. He hobbled off with a "strained right hamstring." Thud.

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The 7-6 win by the Twins was their second straight long-inning victory.

What a night at the Metrodome. Two games into the season, and the Twins are burning through relief pitchers like a Hummer burns through premium unleaded.

Mauer hurt his knee in the top of the third, sliding against the backstop while going after a pop foul. He singled up the middle to lead off the bottom of the inning and got as far as third base on a Cristian Guzman single and a passed ball.

But he literally could go no further. Manager Ron Gardenhire and the trainer came out and escorted him off. The shock in the Dome was palpable. It was as if the Hope Diamond had been flushed down the commode.

Team doctors went out of their way to stress that it appeared to be a "mild" sprain. There was no swelling. Still, a pall was cast over the proceedings. And things only got worse.

I always worry about Santana's health. At times, he appears to be 25 years old going on 60.

The bone chips in his elbow have been repaired. The hamstrings appear healed. Plus, they are stuffing him with bananas and other high-potassium foods to help alleviate chronic leg cramping.

Last night, he was cruising along until the fifth inning, when suddenly the trainer and manager came sprinting from the dugout. Those two spent more time on the field than the resin bag. Santana left the game with those "left forearm spasms," which is a new one on me.

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He departed with a 2-1 lead, which Carlos Pulido promptly coughed up. And off we went into the dark of night. When Hunter grabbed his hamstring in the 11th, by gosh, the Twins had hit the trifecta.

Mauer, Santana and Hunter in one night. Yikes! When Santana is all in one piece, which has become increasingly rare, he clearly is the rotation's ace in training. Brad Radke serves as the resident ace. However, he has been doing it for a decade and currently is in the final year of his contract.

Someday, probably soon, that baton is going to be passed. And Santana needs to be able to take it and run on two good hamstrings. And with no spasms of any kind.

Johan says his wife has been doing a lot of cooking for him, fixing him all sorts of nutritious and tasty meals to help keep him in good health. My response to that is: Does she have a sister?

As recently as last season, Santana's pregame meal consisted of a hot dog.

This is no way to start a baseball season. I don't know how many of the original 19,832 were still on hand when the Twins finally won. Not too many. At least I didn't have to worry too much about traffic.

I pretty much was the traffic. Everyone else was having breakfast somewhere.

Tom Powers is a columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

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