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Angels beat Twins, 4-1, to keep pace with Rangers in AL West

September 4, 2011 |  3:10 pm

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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.

MORE:

Angels-Twins box score

Torii Hunter sees himself in prospect Jeremy Moore

Power surge for Howie Kendrick is a mystery

-- 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

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