MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota’s ability to bounce back from season-threatening slumps is a big reason they have remained in the AL wild-card race.
This recent slump feels a bit different, to manager Paul Molitor.
”In terms of the timing, couldn’t have been much worse for us,” Molitor said after the Twins beat the Los Angeles Angels 8-1 Sunday to stop a five-game skid. ”We didn’t take advantage of some other teams losing. We actually lost some ground.”
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A day after the Angels swept a day-night doubleheader to pass the Twins in the wild-card standings, rookie Tyler Duffey (4-1) allowed three hits in seven shutout innings. Duffey struck out seven and walked one, and Eddie Rosario, Joe Mauer and Torii Hunter homered.
The win pulled the Twins even with the Angels in the AL wild-card race. Both are 2½ games behind Houston for the AL’s second wild card.
”I still feel good,” Molitor said. ”I think with 13 games to go. I think we have a good chance to win our fair share and, hopefully, a little bit more than that going down the stretch. ”You know you just can’t control if it’s going to be enough when you’re chasing.”
The Angels had scored 20 runs in winning the first three games of the series, but just five batters reached base against Duffey. The 24-year-old righty has surprised the Twins coaching staff with his ability to pitch well late in important games.
In his final inning, Duffey was still throwing 90-mph pitches. He struck out Albert Pujols.
”You think about it going into the game, but once you’re out there it’s pitch to pitch,” Duffey said. ”You can’t really put too much pressure on yourself to do that because otherwise that’s when you thinking about everything and trying not to give up anything versus just throwing your game.”
Hunter put the Twins ahead with a solo homer in the second off Matt Shoemaker (7-10), who had allowed just one run over his previous two starts but hadn’t pitched since Sept. 1 due to forearm tightness.
”We’re neck and neck going into the playoff race. That’s what makes today so frustrating,” Shoemaker said. ”We win today, we’re obviously in a better position, a four-game sweep on top of that.”
Rosario’s homer boosted the lead to 3-0 in the third. Aaron Hicks’s RBI single in the fourth chased Shoemaker, who gave up four runs and six hits in 3 2/3 innings.
Cam Bedrosian and Cory Rasmus each forced in runs with bases-loaded walks in the fifth, and Mauer hit his ninth homer in the eighth, a 419-foot drive against Wesley Wright.
Casey Fien pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth for Minnesota.
Duffey’s is 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA in his last three starts. Molitor has wanted to limit Duffey’s innings.
”You don’t want to get too greedy. At the same time, if the kid’s able, he’s given us a lot of high-end starts here down the stretch and we’d like to take advantage of him if we can,” Molitor said.
Jett Bandy homered with two outs in the ninth against Glen Perkins, his first major-league hit. Asked whether he got the ball, Bandy said: ”They gave me one ball, but I don’t think it’s the right ball. They’re trying to play with me.”
Angels: Manager Mike Scioscia said INF Johnny Giavotella, who is dealing with a medical condition affecting his vision, would head to Arizona on Sunday to begin working with the team’s instructional league staff. Scioscia hoped Giavotella would hit against a pitcher by Wednesday. … Scioscia said it was still too early to tell the extent of RHP Joe Smith’s sprained ankle. Smith tripped at the team hotel on Saturday.
Twins: Left-handed starter Tommy Milone has a ”bit of a tired shoulder,” and Molitor said Phil Hughes – who pitched out of the bullpen on Saturday – would most likely take his spot in the rotation, starting Wednesday’s game against Cleveland.
Angels: Los Angeles opens a three-game series at Houston on Monday, sending RHP Jered Weaver (7-11) to the mound against Astros LHP Dallas Keuchel.
Twins: Minnesota has a day off before RHP Ervin Santana (5-4) opens a three-game series against Cleveland. Santana is 3-10 against the Indians.