Twins' bullpen wastes big lead
By Dave Campbell, AP Sports Writer
MINNEAPOLIS -- Maicer Izturis hit a go-ahead RBI single in the ninth inning for the Angels after scoring five runs in the eighth inning off three Twins relievers, and Los Angeles beat Minnesota 6-5 on Friday night.
Erick Aybar's three-run homer on the first pitch from Dusty Hughes ignited the rally after Twins starter Scott Baker scattered six singles over seven shutout innings. Jim Hoey (0-2) was pitching when Alberto Callaspo's infield single and Russell Branyan's sacrifice fly forged a tie for the Angels.
Jordan Walden worked the ninth for his 11th save in 14 tries, reaching 99 mph with his fastball multiple times on the Target Field radar and sending the Twins to their sixth loss in seven games.
Michael Cuddyer and Trevor Plouffe hit back-to-back two-out singles off Walden, but that wasn't enough.
Scott Downs (3-1) got two outs for the win for the Angels.
Torii Hunter had three hits, hustled home with the tying run and saved the Angels by ending the eighth inning with a blooper-reel catch of a shallow fly with a runner on second.
Hunter called off Peter Bourjos, but he bobbled the ball and Bourjos stuck his glove out. Together, they made sure it didn't hit the ground to let the Twins take the lead, and the play went down in the scorebook as a rare 8-9 put-out.
Bourjos had leadoff triple in the ninth and scored on Izturis's single to take the lead.
Jason Kubel drove in three runs and Alexi Casilla had two doubles and a triple for the Twins. Baker has left with a lead six times in 10 starts. The bullpen has blown four of those, all in the eighth inning. Baker struck out six without a walk, his first game without a free pass.
Bourjos also took away what might have been Jim Thome's 594th career home run with a leaping catch at the bullpen in left-center in the sixth inning, while Hunter -- who used to do that for a living -- watched in awe from right field.
Tyler Chatwood found more trouble away from Anaheim. Only one of his five starts of six innings or more and two runs or less has been on the road. The rookie right-hander served up plenty of batting-practice balls to a Twins team that's last in the majors in runs. The damage could've been worse, but the Twins twice ended an inning by hitting into a double play.
Chatwood surrendered eight hits and three walks in 52/3 innings, though one of the four runs against him was unearned. Aybar fumbled a grounder to shortstop to start the fifth and trigger a two-run rally by the Twins who took a 4-0 lead on Kubel's two-run bases-loaded single.
Chatwood's ERA in six home starts is 2.87. On the road, it's 6.63.
For Minnesota, mental mistakes have persisted, compounding the obvious flaws in the batting order and in the bullpen.
Casilla stumbled as he rounded first on his RBI double, forcing a retreat to the base before a hustle to second. As the second inning ended on a line drive to second base, Valencia slid back into first before realizing that was the third out. Then with the bases loaded and one out in the fifth, Kubel took off for third on a sinking liner that Hunter caught in right field for an easy double play to strand Thome in the on-deck circle.
Reliever Alex Burnett was slow to cover on a bobbled groundball by first baseman Justin Morneau that let Bourjos beat one out with his fast feet for a leadoff single in the eighth.
NOTES: The Angels went 37 innings without scoring a run on the road until Aybar's homer. ... Baker has 61 strikeouts in 612/3 innings. He entered the game with the second-best strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio in the league, but he has only two wins in 10 starts. He's averaging nearly 15 pitches per inning and needed 106 pitches or more in six of his starts. ... Joe Mauer had four at-bats as a DH in an extended spring training game in Fort Myers, Fla., going 0 for 2 with two walks against Kevin Millwood. Twins assistant athletic trainer Dave Pruemer said Mauer's knees felt good.