MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ A successful homestand has not made the Minnesota Twins complacent.
Scott Baker pitched seven shutout innings, Michael Cuddyer had a bases-loaded double, and the Twins beat the Los Angeles Angels 4-0 Sunday night.
Danny Valencia homered for the Twins, who took two of three from Los Angeles.
Minnesota went 7-2 on its nine-game homestand to increase its lead in the AL Central to five games over struggling Chicago. The White Sox lost three extra-inning games on a 2-4 road trip, including Sunday in Kansas City.
“We’ve got more than a month left and every one of them counts,” Valencia said. “The last couple of years we’ve played a Game 163, and hopefully we can avoid that this year.”
Minnesota opens a crucial four-game series Monday at AL West-leading Texas.
“It doesn’t matter who we play. If it’s Texas, Kansas City, Baltimore, whoever, they’re all big games right now,” Cuddyer said.
Valencia homered to open the fifth against Jered Weaver (11-9). Orlando Hudson tripled with two outs, and Joe Mauer and Jason Kubel walked to load the bases. Cuddyer fouled off five straight pitches with two strikes before hitting a ball to left-center that rolled to the wall. Cuddyer, now 3-for-18 lifetime against Weaver, was tagged out in a rundown trying to go to third.
“It was apparent from the get-go I was in swing mode. He probably could have rolled it up there and I would have struck out,” Cuddyer said. “Fortunately, he didn’t do that.”
That was plenty of support for Baker (11-9), who bounced back from a pair of poor performances where he left the ball up in the zone. He allowed eight earned runs in 10 2-3 innings in his previous two starts _ both against Chicago.
In his seven innings, Baker allowed five hits, struck out three and walked one. He allowed a baserunner in six of those innings, but none got past second base. Of the last 12 batters Baker faced, none got hits and two walked.
His biggest change was being able to make mechanical adjustments throughout the game.
“This game is hard enough as it is, and if you’re doing everything just the way you want to, it’s tough to execute pitches,” said Baker, who beat Los Angeles for the first time in nine career starts. “I really just tried to simplify things. Instead of worrying about making a pitch, I just tried to make sure I was doing it right mechanically and whatever happened, happened.”
Jesse Crain pitched a scoreless eighth and Matt Capps a perfect ninth for Minnesota.
Alberto Callaspo and Hideki Matsui each had two hits for Los Angeles, which has lost five of seven. The Angels are 7-19 in their last 26 road games, and have not won consecutive games away from Angel Stadium since June 18-19.
Weaver, who struggled to quickly get hitters out throughout his six-inning, 107-pitch outing, allowed six hits, struck out three, but tied a season high with four walks. It was the second-straight rough outing for Weaver, who gave up six runs in five innings Tuesday in Boston. He allowed four earned runs in his previous four starts combined.
“When you fall behind these guys and have to nit pick to get back in the count and worry about giving up a home run, that could be the end of the game. It’s not a good feeling,” he said. “I tried to battle out there as much as I can, they got me for four runs and we lost. Thats all there is to it.”
He twice allowed the leadoff man to get on in the first three innings, but neither scored. Jim Thome led off the second with a double, but was later thrown out by Howie Kendrick trying to score on a ground out. Hudson walked to start the third, but was erased on a double play – one of seven straight Minnesota batters who failed to hit the ball out of the infield
In his major league debut, Jordan Walden pitched a scoreless eighth inning for Los Angeles, including strikeouts of Cuddyer and Thome. Walden was recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake Sunday when the Angels placed infielder Maicer Izturis on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation.
“That was a pretty big lineup I had to face,” Walden said. “Pretty crazy for a debut.”
NOTES: Mauer walked three times. … Minnesota starter Nick Blackburn, recalled Saturday when Kevin Slowey went on the disabled list with a strained right triceps, is scheduled to start Monday in Texas. Manager Ron Gardenhire said Francisco Liriano will get two extra days off between starts and will throw a light bullpen session Monday. … Callaspo hit safely in 17 of his past 18 games against Minnesota, and in 40 of 44 career games.