Pavano made the anniversary a memorable one, working seven innings of two-run ball as the Twins claimed a 7-2 victory over the Indians at Progressive Field.
Coming off his first loss since June 3, Pavano scattered seven hits and four walks with six strikeouts to notch victory No. 14 of the season. He threw 108 pitches, 68 for strikes.
The veteran right-hander is 19-11 since joining the Twins last August.
"He's been huge," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, whose club remains 1 1/2 games behind Chicago in the American League Central standings.
"Last year, he came in and pitched a lot of big games for us. I think a lot of our guys are learning from him. He's not afraid to speak his mind in the clubhouse, which is good. He knows how we like to play and he expects the best out of his teammates."
Pavano's teammates needed him Saturday, following a disheartening 7-6 walk-off loss in Friday's series opener.
Donning 1909 St. Paul Gophers uniforms in a tribute to the Negro Leagues, the Twins styled their retro garb with a 14-hit attack.
Jason Kubel led off the second with a solo home run, his second in as many games, launching a 1-0 sinker from Indians starter Fausto Carmona to right field.
Minnesota doubled its advantage in the third, when Joe Mauer laced a two-out single to center that scored Alexi Casilla, who left the game after spraining his left ankle while sliding into Indians catcher Chris Gimenez. Trevor Plouffe replaced Casilla at second base in the bottom of the inning.
A pair of two-out hits off Pavano in the fourth knotted the score at 2. After Jordan Brown's ringing double to right scored Shin-Soo Choo from first base, Matt LaPorta singled home Brown with a knock to left.
The Indians, who finished 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 men, would not grace the scoreboard again.
"[Pavano] preyed on our aggressiveness," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "We were playing into his hands and didn't execute. We have to continue to preach what the right approach is in those situations."
The Twins forged ahead on J.J. Hardy's one-out RBI single in the seventh, but the Tribe staged a threat in the bottom of the inning. With two on and two out, Gardenhire instructed Pavano to intentionally walk Choo, loading the bases for Shelley Duncan.
"They thought that was the best opportunity for me to get an out," said Pavano, who trimmed the sleeves of his baggy uniform before the game.
Gardenhire's decision proved to be the right one, as Pavano fanned Duncan on a 2-2 check swing to squelch the threat.
"He made some huge pitches," Gardenhire said. "He just knows how to pitch."
Pavano credited Duncan for the strikeout more than himself.
"He chased a couple [of] bad pitches," Pavano said. "I didn't make the best pitches, but I was able to execute and get out of it. It worked out in our favor.
"They had me on the ropes all game. They had plenty of opportunities to put me away, but I made some pitches and got us back in the dugout with some momentum. That's the name of the game. You're not going to be perfect every time out."
Plouffe led off the eighth in style, snapping an 0-for-18 drought with his first Major League homer on a drive to right off Carmona.
This on a night Plouffe wasn't even expected to play.
"He had a smile from ear to ear," Gardenhire said.
The smiles continued when the Twins plated three more insurance runs. Following Cuddyer's RBI single and an RBI double from Valencia in the eighth, Kubel capped the scoring in the ninth with a two-out RBI double.
"It was a nice night," Gardenhire said.
Especially for Pavano, who emerged victorious largely because of his poise.
"He's not just a pitcher for us, he's a leader," Gardenhire said. "We're happy to have him."