"Guzman was [hot]," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Obviously, he got four hits. We didn't make a lot of good pitches on him. If you throw Guzy a fastball, it has a chance to get whacked pretty good, and we know that because we had him here. We were trying to get some balls out and over the plate, but we threw a few too many strikes and he hit them all."
Mauer couldn't quite match Guzman's night at the plate, tallying just one hit in five at-bats. But the catcher was able to play without any setbacks, even legging out a triple for his only hit of the game.
"It was good to get back out there with the guys," Mauer said. "But I pictured the first game back a little different."
Though the Twins made it a three-run contest at the end, it was a game that appeared far out of reach for most of the night. That's because the offense was given a huge burden right from the start.
Twins starter Carlos Silva looked very different from the pitcher who delivered a one-run complete-game gem in his last start in Oakland.
Mauer said that Silva's session in the bullpen had the two thinking it would be a similar performance. But once Silva crossed the white line, things suddenly changed.
Silva had trouble finding his sinker early and the breaking pitches never really came either, something the Twins haven't seen much from him this season. Pitching coach Rick Anderson saw that Silva's arm slot was a bit too high, and the two tried to correct it after Silva had given up two runs after the first two innings.
That attempt proved unsuccessful. Despite getting two quick ground-ball outs to start the third, Silva couldn't get the changes to stick. Run-scoring singles by Dmitri Young and Ryan Church later in the third gave the Nationals a 4-0 lead, but it was the rough start to the fourth inning, allowing the first three batters to plate without recording an out, which finally ended Silva's day.
Silva (3-7) allowed seven earned runs on nine hits over three-plus innings.
"It was just one of those days. Every game I've been throwing, I feel good throwing the ball," Silva said. "Today, I was fighting to make my pitches. I wasn't feeling too comfortable today."
And after Ramon Ortiz gave up one run in the sixth, the Twins found themselves looking at an 8-0 deficit. That type of hole is huge for any club, no matter what type of pitching they're facing or if they know that pitcher well.
Despite the Twins' lack of history with the Nationals, the team had a good idea about what kind of stuff their starter would throw. Washington's journeyman starter, Jason Simontacchi, spent the 2001 season in the Twins organization, pitching for the club's then Triple-A affiliate, Edmonton.
The club might have known the type of stuff Simontacchi delivered, but they struggled to capitalize on any of it. While the Twins tagged Simontacchi (3-4) for four runs later in his 7 2/3 innings, including a three-run homer by Jason Kubel in the seventh, it was a tale of too little, too late.
"Eight runs, the game was out of hand," Torii Hunter said. "Really, we just got beat today. We figured him out late and tried to come back, but it just didn't work out."
Though it wasn't the type of end result the Twins were hoping for in Mauer's return, the club did see a positive in the catcher's performance. Mauer recorded just the one hit, but Gardenhire was pleased with the swings the catcher put on the ball.
"I thought he'd be rusty," Gardenhire said with a smile. "I told him, 'Your swing will come back to you. Just keep swinging, Joe.' I think he had five at-bats and five line drives. That's just a normal night for Joe.
"For most of us, after you're out five weeks, it'd be a little tougher. But he sure put some good swings on the ball. And that's a good thing to see."