Angels beat Twins, 4-1, to keep pace with Rangers in AL West
Joel Pineiro, demoted to the bullpen in early August, allowed one run and five hits in seven strong innings Sunday to lead the Angels to a 4-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins in Angel Stadium.
Scott Downs retired the side in order in the eighth, lowering his earned-run average to 1.37 in 52 appearances, and Jordan Walden struck out two in a scoreless ninth for his 28th save as the Angels remained 3 1/2 games behind Texas in the American League West. The Rangers beat the Boston Red Sox, 11-4, on Sunday.
Rookie catcher Hank Conger, whose erratic throws to second base contributed to his demotion to triple-A Salt Lake on July 19, threw out two runners attempting to steal second for the first time in his career.
Opponents were successful on 50 of 58 stolen-base attempts against Conger entering the game.
The Angels broke open a 2-1 game with two runs in the eighth, a rally Twins reliever Alex Burnett set up by hitting Howie Kendrick with a pitch and walking Bobby Abreu to open the inning. Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells each knocked in runs with singles.
The Angels took a 1-0 lead in the first when Abreu, reduced to a platoon role because of his .252 average and minimal power, lined a solo home run to right off Twins starter Kevin Slowey. It was Abreu’s seventh homer of the season and first since Aug. 9.
The Angels made it 2-0 in the third with the help of a Minnesota mental miscue. Conger hit a one-out single to right and took third when Erick Aybar extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a single to right.
Kendrick followed with a potential inning-ending double-play grounder to third baseman Danny Valencia, who threw to second for the force-out.
But second baseman Trevor Plouffe, thinking it was the third out of the inning, put his head down and started jogging toward the dugout without relaying a throw to first, as Conger scored.
The Twins cut the deficit to 2-1 in the fourth when Joe Mauer, who entered with a .682 career average (15 for 22) against Pineiro, drove a full-count pitch into the right center field seats for a solo homer, only his second in an injury-plagued season.
-- Mike DiGiovanna
Photo: Angels designated hitter Bobby Abreu is congratulated after hitting a solo home run in the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at Angel Stadium on Sunday. Credit: Gary A. Vasquez / US Presswire