John Lackey‘s only regret about his latest start was that he didn’t get one more shot at getting Joe Mauer out.
Lackey had already given up two homers to Mauer when the AL batting leader came up with a runner on and two outs in the eighth, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia went to the bullpen to close out Los Angeles’ victory over the Minnesota Twins, 6-3 on Friday night.
“I definitely wanted to make another run at him, especially with a four-run lead. I didn’t want him to get the last say, I guess,” said Lackey, who was Mauer’s batterymate during a postseason All-Star tour of Japan. “He’s a catcher that calls a good game, and he can hit. He’s the real deal. He’s thinking along with you, and it’s definitely a big challenge.”
Robb Quinlan, Jeff Mathis and Mike Napoli each homered for the Angels, whose seventh victory in a row equaled their longest winning streak of the season. Los Angeles has won 11 of 12.
The two-time defending AL West champions are a season-best 19 games over .500. They have gone 27-9 since June 12, turning a 4 1/2-game deficit in the standings into a 3 1/2-game lead. Lackey is 5-2 with a 3.24 ERA in eight starts during that stretch.
“We need a starter to step up and pitch well for this team, more than anything,” Lackey said. “We need somebody to take the reins and get it moving here.”
Lackey (6-4) did just that Friday, allowing two runs and four hits over 7 2-3 innings and struck out three. The right-hander also made three putouts at first base, one of them at the end of a 3-6-1 double play.
Minnesota lost its fifth in six games and dropped under .500 for the first time since June 24.
Lackey held Minnesota to three hits over the first six innings, including Mauer’s homers in the fourth and sixth innings. It was Mauer’s third multihomer game in the majors and his first since June 24, 2007, against Florida’s Byung-Hyun Kim.
Mauer, vying for his third league batting title in four seasons, was 2 for 4 and is hitting .365 with 17 homers and 53 RBIs. He has nine hits in 20 career at-bats against Lackey, but had never homered against him before Friday.
“Other than Mauer who put some good swings out there, we didn’t have much else going on,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We were pretty much shut down.”
All three Angels homers came off Francisco Liriano (4-10), who was charged with six runs and eight hits in 5 1-3 innings. It was the second time in 54 big league starts that Liriano surrendered three home runs. He also did it on July 13, 2006, against Cleveland.
“I think I am making too many mistakes every game,” Liriano said. “I am trying the best I can, I am just not pitching well enough and have to try harder.”
Quinlan drove a 2-2 pitch just over the fence in left-center and beyond the leaping attempt of center fielder Denard Span for a 2-0 lead, after Howie Kendrick led off the second inning with a double and advanced on Liriano’s balk.
The homer was the second this season for Quinlan, a seven-year veteran who came in with a career average of .302 against left-handed pitching. He also homered Tuesday night against Royals lefty Bruce Chen. Quinlan has 25 homers in 1,041 career at-bats, 19 of them off southpaws.
“I don’t know if I’m still comfortable in that role,” Quinlan said. “It’s never easy when you sit around for a week or so and then jump in there and try to get hits. I just try to get the extra work in and just be ready to go when I get in there.”
Mathis, the Angels‘ No. 9 hitter gave them a 3-1 lead in the fifth with his fourth homer. Erick Aybar and Bobby Abreu opened the sixth with singles and Napoli followed with his 14th homer into the right field seats.
“Nap’s got some sick pop. I mean, I’d put him up against anybody in this league for straight power,” Lackey said. “That ball he hit tonight, he stepped in the bucket and hit it all hands out the other way.”
Liriano has committed only two balks in 334 career innings. The other was on July 2, 2006, against Milwaukee. … Wood made his fourth start of the season at 1B in place of Kendry Morales, who got the day off after his 20-game hitting streak ended Thursday night.