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Angels avoid no-hitter but not loss

May 28, 2011 |  7:08 pm

For the first month of the season, the Angels' Jered Weaver was the best pitcher in baseball.

But for eight innings Saturday, he was no better than the second-best pitcher on the mound at Target Field. That's because the Twins' Anthony Swarzak, who was in the minor leagues less than two weeks ago, came within five outs of a no-hitter before Peter Bourjos lined a double just inside third base with one out in the eighth.

The Twins won the game, 1-0, in the 10th on Danny Valencia's bases-loaded walk-off single, which scored pinch-runner Jason Repko from third.

Justin Morneau started the winning rally with a line-drive single to center off lefty reliever Hisanori Takahashi with one out. Former Dodger Repko came in to run for Morneau while the Angels brought in right-hander Kevin Jepsen to face Michael Cuddyer.

Cuddyer got the best of that matchup, singling to center. And when Delmon Young followed with a bloop single of his own, the bases were loaded.

Repko might have scored on the play, but Angels shortstop Erick Aybar deked the runner into thinking he was going to make a play on the ball and Repko was only able to go as far as third. But Valencia made that moot when, with the Angels playing five men in the infield, he drove a Jepsen pitch over right fielder Torii Hunter's head to end the game.

It was the 12th extra-inning game  and eighth extra-inning loss  of the season for the Angels.

Even though he didn't get the win, Swarzak was the story Saturday. A 25-year-old from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the right-hander was making the 14th start of his big league career -- only his second since August 2009. And he wouldn't have even been on the mound if left-hander Francisco Liriano hadn't come up lame with a sore shoulder late Friday.

But Swarzak made the most of his opportunity with a brilliant effort, giving up the one hit -- on his 99th pitch -- and walking two. He escaped the eighth inning by getting pinch-hitters Hank Conger and Alexi Amarista on pop-ps and was then pulled from the game, having thrown 105 pitches while striking out four and facing just three batters over the minimum.

Aside from Bourjos' sharply hit grounder, the Angels didn't come close to a hit against Swarzak, who sat alone in the dugout between innings in a blue Twins warmup jacket. The Angels got a couple of well-hit fly balls to the outfield in the seventh -- including Bobby Abreu's drive that right fielder Cuddyer caught against the wall -- but they were routine plays.

Weaver, who threw a career-high 128 pitches, was almost as good, giving up a ground single to right by  Young with two out in the second and a two-out infield single by Denard Span in the sixth. Weaver also gave up walks starting the third and ninth innings, with the first runner being erased on a double play. Weaver struck out seven, including two in the ninth, facing just two batters over the minimum 27 before leaving in favor of Takahashi in the 10th.

Span was the only Twin to reach scoring position against Weaver, racing to second on an errant pickoff throw in the sixth. But Weaver got out of the inning by picking him off second. Span appeared to get back to the base in plenty of time but Aybar deftly blocked the bag with his foot before making the tag. Minnesota Manager Ron Gardenhire was ejected for arguing the call with second-base umpire Andy Fletcher.

The nine-inning outing marked Weaver's longest since he threw back-to-back complete games a month ago. And the two hits he yielded were the fewest he's given up in his career in a start of at least eight innings.


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Photo: Anthony Swarzak. Credit: Hannah Foslien / Getty Images