Angels hang on to beat Twins and climb back over .500
Perhaps the best way to describe baseball is to say it’s a game of averages. And a third of the way into the season that might also be the best way to describe the Angels –- average.
After Sunday’s 6-5 victory over the Minnesota Twins, the Angels are only a game above .500, leaving them on pace for fewer than 83 wins this season. And though that leaves the team no worse than a game out of first place in the balanced American League West, no team has won the division with fewer than 84 victories in a non-strike year –- and only four times has the division champion won less than 90 games.
"This team has to get better," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "We’re not the finished product. And we’re all comfortable we will get better as the season moves on. In some areas the way we’ve played baseball in this first third of the season is far short of what we need to do.
"And there’s some things that are working very well."
The Angels did several things well Sunday, like taking advantage of some poor Twins fielding to score three times in the third inning. Mark Trumbo and Jeff Mathis were both credited with infield hits on plays that just as easily could have been ruled errors. And then, after Erick Aybar drove in two runs with a two-out triple that just got by a diving Justin Morneau at first, a throwing error by shortstop Trevor Plouffe allowed Aybar to score.
The runs were significant because they came against Minnesota starter Carl Pavano, marking the first time the Angels scored off a starting pitcher in the series. And it was only the second time in their last six road games the Angels have scored against a starter.
After a two-out single by Morneau halved the lead in the bottom of the inning, some more shaky fielding by the Twins helped the Angels to another run in the fifth.
Angel starter Dan Haren wasn't at this best, giving up three runs and a season-high 10 hits in six-plus innings, retiring the side in order only once. But just two of the Twins' hits came with runners in scoring position and reliever Scott Downs helped save the win for Haren (5-3) by getting Morneau to hit into a double play with two out in the seventh inning.
The Angels then added what appeared to be an insurance run in the seventh when Bobby Abreu doubled into the right-field corner to score Aybar. The double was the 535th of Abreu's career, breaking a tie with Lou Gehrig for 32nd on the all-time list.
Trumbo closed out the Angels' scoring with a ninth-inning home run into the second deck in left field, his team-leading ninth of the season. Though the run didn't appear to be important at the time, it would be the game-winner.
Denard Span and Morneau answered for the Twins with a pair of run-scoring singles in the bottom of the inning against reliever Jordan Walden, who eventually closed out the game by getting Michael Cuddyer to fly out to center field with the tying run on third, earning his 12th save.
Aybar finished with three hits, scoring twice and driving in three, while Abreu and Mathis had two hits apiece.
The top four hitters in the Twins' lineup -- Span, Alexi Casilla, Jason Kubel and Morneau -- combined for 10 hits, with Span and Morneau getting three each.
-- Kevin Baxter in Minneapolis
Photo: Angels shortstop Erick Aybar connects for a two-run triple with two outs in the third inning against the Twins on Sunday in Minneapolis. Credit: Genevieve Ross / Associated Press