ST. PETERSBURG -- By the time the Rays earned a 4-3 victory in extra innings, Carl Pavano's bid for a no-hitter earlier in the game was an afterthought as the Rays' Johnny Damon hit a two-run, walk-off homer in the 10th off Twins reliever Matt Capps on Thursday.
The Rays' two-run inning came after Danny Valencia's single off Kyle Farnsworth with two outs in the top half of the 10th inning scored Matt Tolbert to give the Twins a 3-2 lead.
To make matters even worse, the Twins announced after the game that catcher Joe Mauer was assigned to the 15-day disabled list with what management described as "bilateral leg weakness."
The Twins seemed as if they were on their way to a perfect start of an eight-game road trip as Pavano held the Rays hitless through four innings only to have Matt Joyce smack a hard-hit single to left with one out in the fifth to spoil the bid. The 35-year-old right-hander didn't let the knock bother him, though, as he went eight innings without allowing a run while striking out seven and giving up four hits.
Pavano gave way to Joe Nathan after he told manager Ron Gardenhire he was done for the night following his 104-pitch outing in which he tossed 65 strikes.
"He said he'd love to be a hero tonight, but he was gassed," Gardenhire said. "There's no thought after that. [Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson] and I had already talked about it and we were ready to send him out if he was ready to go, but he said he was done. That's all you can ask from a starting pitcher."
Nathan forced B.J. Upton into a groundout to short to start the ninth, but then fell victim to what he described as a "dome-induced" pop fly to right field by Felipe Lopez that dropped in between right fielder Jason Kubel, second baseman Michael Cuddyer and first baseman Justin Morneau. Nathan walked Ben Zobrist then had Joyce rip a double to right-center that scored Lopez and Zobrist.
"I felt good out there and a ball just fell in there [on the hit by Lopez] and then Joyce put a good swing on the ball to bring in those runs," said Nathan, who blew his first save in four appearances this season.
The Twins tried to salvage a win when they scored a run in their half of the 10th inning. Tolbert, pinch-hitting for Kubel, reached on a single and then scored on a single by Valencia.
The Rays gave the small remnants of the announced crowd of 10,042 something to cheer about in the bottom half of the inning when Sam Fuld singled through the hole off Capps with one out. Damon sent the fans home happy with a low looper to right field that barely cleared the top of the wall.
"I made a pitch on Fuld and it found a hole and the same thing with Damon," Capps said. "I threw the ball where I wanted it to go, a sinker away. He just put a good swing on it and it got out. It was a good piece of hitting. Sometimes it happens. It's a part of the game."
Despite the blown opportunity, the Twins can be comforted by the fact that Pavano earned his second straight quality start after allowing one run in eight innings last Friday in the Twins' 2-1 victory over the A's.
"He pitched well and it's just too bad we didn't give him more to work with," Gardenhire said. "We had plenty of chances. We missed a lot of opportunities to score runs. That's probably where the game was lost more than anything else. We didn't put them away and good teams you've got to put away and we didn't do it."
The Twins began their eight-game road trip at Tropicana Field against Rays right-hander James Shields, who was equally efficient on the mound as the Twins managed just four hits through five innings before breaking through in the sixth. Morneau began the scoring frame with a double to deep right-center and Jim Thome followed the hit with a single before Delmon Young's sacrifice fly brought in Morneau from third.
After Jason Kubel hit a ground-rule double and Valencia was intentionally walked, Drew Butera singled to left to score Thome as the Twins took a 2-0 lead.
The Rays threatened in the seventh inning when Joyce reached base with a two-out single and Dan Johnson followed with a single to right, but Pavano got John Jaso to fly out to Denard Span in deep center field.
Chris Girandola is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.