Angels 6, Twins 2
When Erick Aybar came trotting home on a double from Mike Trout that gave the Los Angeles an early lead over the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday night, Angels starter Ervin Santana raised his hands in the dugout and smiled.
Hard to blame, him. It had been quite a while since he had pitched with a run on the board.
Ervin Santana pitched 7 1-3 innings and got some run support from the Angels offense for the first time in his past six starts in a 6-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday night.
Santana (1-6) gave up two runs and six hits and Albert Pujols had two hits and two RBIs for the Angels, who took two of three from the Twins. Trout had two doubles, two RBIs and scored twice and Howie Kendrick added three hits for Los Angeles.
''It was great,'' Pujols said. ''He's been pitching the ball well. It's great to give run support to any of our starting pitchers. As competitive as they are, Ervin knew we scored some runs early, but he kept making his pitches, never lost his focus.''
Carl Pavano (2-3) was knocked out of the game before there was an out in the fifth inning for the Twins, who are an MLB-worst 8-22. He gave up five runs - four earned - and 10 hits in his shortest outing of the season.
Josh Willingham hit his sixth homer of the season and also had a double for the Twins, who shook things up after the game by moving struggling starter Francisco Liriano to the bullpen and sending third baseman Danny Valencia to Triple-A Rochester.
''We need to make some changes,'' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. ''We need some hits. We need some new life in here, the whole package.''
Angels manager Mike Scioscia was ejected in the eighth inning for arguing balls and strikes with plate umpire Sam Holbrook, but that was about the only thing that went wrong for Los Angeles on Wednesday night.
With Pujols struggling mightily in his first season in the American League, the Angels have been shut out seven times this season. Santana is the first pitcher since 1974 to go through five straight starts where his offense was shut out, according to STATS LLC.
When Trout's double scored Aybar in the third inning, it was the first time Santana had received a run of support since the third inning on April 8 against Kansas City.
''He felt better, obviously, getting a couple runs,'' Scioscia said. ''I felt as the game picked up his command got a little bit better.''
Pujols added an RBI single and Alberto Callaspo scored thanks to a throwing error from first baseman Joe Mauer that hit Pujols in the back on his way to second base for a 3-0 lead. Pujols came up a little gimpy on the play, but he quickly shooed trainers off the field and stayed in the game.
Los Angeles tacked on two more in the fifth, getting rocket doubles to the gap from Trout and Callaspo to start the inning and chase Pavano, who has been searching for lost velocity all season long. With a fastball that routinely was clocked in the mid-80s, and an unwillingness to pitch inside, the Angels hitters were able to crowd the plate and hammer the outside corners early and often.
Pavano gave up four doubles and only lasted as long as he did thanks to three inning-ending double plays.
Santana certainly wasn't blameless for the 0-5 record he carried into the outing. The right-hander gave up 19 earned runs and 10 homers in his first four starts, one of the chief reasons the Angels got off to such a surprisingly poor start.
But he's gotten progressively better over his past three outings, looking more and more like the reliable 16-game winner he was last season. He's allowed seven earned runs in 22 1-3 innings over his past three starts.
''It's not like we're not going out and trying to score runs,'' Kendrick said. ''We got shut out yesterday, but we come out today and put up 14 hits. It's like we're a completely different offense. Everybody is still not where they want to be at, but we're close.''
NOTES: Twins GM Terry Ryan said DH Justin Morneau received a cortisone shot in his sore left wrist at the Cleveland Clinic. The plan is for him to take some swings on Saturday. While still early in his DL stint, the Twins are hopeful Morneau will be ready to come off on May 15 and join the team for the eight-game road trip that begins in Detroit on May 16. ... Torii Hunter hit into two double plays, and the two struggling offenses combined for five in the game. ... Angels LF Vernon Wells made an outstanding catch on a dead run to rob Mauer of an extra-base hit in the sixth. .... The Angels have the day off on Thursday before beginning a big series at Texas on Friday. LHP C.J. Wilson (4-2, 2.61) will pitch his first game against the Rangers on Friday night while RHP Yu Darvish (4-1, 2.54) will pitch for Texas. ... The Twins open a four-game series against the Blue Jays on Thursday. Jason Marquis (2-1, 5.40) will pitch Game 1 for Minnesota against RHP Henderson Alvarez (2-2, 2.83).