The fast-starting 6-2 Twins jumped out in front with seven first-inning runs, and Pascual capped the big inning with a grand slam off reliever Stan Williams, who had just taken over for hard-throwing “Sudden Sam” McDowell. The righthanded-hitting Pascual tucked a 320-foot shot just inside the right-field foul pole.
“I’m starting to pull the ball a little better now,” Pascual quipped after the game. The slam was the second of his career; the first, in 1960, pinged off the right-field foul pole at Yankee Stadium. “This one I pulled inside the pole,” he noted.
Despite the balky knee, the curveball artist also two-hit Cleveland for his second victory of the young season. Pascual went on to win his first eight decisions of 1965, improving to 8-0 with a 2.49 ERA after defeating Cleveland again on June 8.
Although Jim “Mudcat” Grant struggled early on, he started 5-0. He and Pascual all but guaranteed wins through much of May and into June. Neither took an “L” until Grant lost a 2-1 pitchers’ duel to Luis Tiant and the Tribe on June 7. Even with the loss, the first-place Twins were 31-16 and 2.5 games in front of the White Sox.
Pascual had been the staff ace since the franchise shift from Washington to Minnesota in 1961, and a 20-game winner in both ’62 and ’63. Then, after he and Grant had sparked the Twins’ fast start, Pascual tore a muscle in the back of his shoulder in July and underwent surgery to repair the damage after the All-Star break.
After pitching for dreadful Washington teams in the 1950s, Pascual might have been done for the season with the franchise on the brink of its first World Series appearance in 32 years. But somehow he returned in September.
Pascual hadn’t fully rehabbed his injury and lacked his best stuff, particularly the bite on his curveball, which was among the best in the game. In fact, he was never the same pitcher.
“After that, I never threw the same,” Pascual admitted during an interview for the Tony Oliva bio. “I lost all the strength in my arm that year.”
Even with his pitches compromised, Pascual worked a few solid outings down the stretch and started Game 3 of the 1965 World Series at Dodger Stadium. The righthander, who finished 9-3 with a 3.35 ERA that season, worked five innings and took the loss in Claude Osteen’s 4-0 blanking of the Twins.
That would be the only postseason appearance for Pascual, who still managed to pitch effectively beyond 1965. Following the 1966 season, the Twins dealt him to the expansion Washington Senators, who were nearly as bumbling as the original Senators were in the 1950s.
Yet, Pascual posted double-digit victories in his final two seasons as a full-time starter and retired with a 174-170 record over 18 big league campaigns.
Retiring with a winning record was a notable feat. At age 20 in 1954, Pascual joined the rotation of the talent-thin Senators. The young righthander wasn’t ready but endured on-the-job training. He says the early years were rough because he didn’t command his fastball well enough to make the most out of his devastating curve.
In his first five big league seasons, Pascual went 28-66 for a Washington club that averaged 95 losses a season over those years. Then he broke out in 1959, finishing 17-10 with a 2.64 ERA and league-leading six shutouts.
The 20-win seasons with Minnesota soon followed, and on Mother’s Day 1965, two weeks after stroking his grand slam against Cleveland, Pascual evened his career record at 132-132. He popped his second homer of the season and went the distance in a 6-1 win over the White Sox. He won his next four decisions to improve to 8-0 and never had a losing record again.