ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — The Minnesota Twins had their the best game of the season from a power standpoint, and it wasn’t easy against a pitching staff that had given up fewer home runs than any team in the American League going in.
Delmon Young drove in three runs with a pair of homers off sinkerballer Joel Pineiro, Michael Cuddyer hit a tiebreaking grand slam and a solo shot, and Jason Kubel also went deep to lead the Minnesota Twins to an 11-4 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday night.
“You know he’s a sinkerballer, and what sinkerballers do is try to throw the ball down in the zone and get you to roll over the ball,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “And if you chase and fall into the trap, that’s his goal. But I thought we laid off some pitches early. He used his breaking ball, but we had some good at-bats overall and put the ball in play. And when he made some mistakes, we put them in the seats.”
Anthony Swarzak (3-3) was credited with the victory, allowing one hit in five scoreless innings after taking over for ineffective starter Scott Baker. The right-hander recorded his sixth career victory and first in relief.
Peter Bourjos homered for the Angels, who squandered a chance to tie Texas for the AL West lead for the first time since July 5 after the Rangers lost at Detroit. Manager Mike Scioscia returned to the dugout after serving a one-game suspension.
Baker threw 77 pitches through three innings in his shortest outing of the season, allowing four runs — three earned — and five hits. He left with the score tied 4-all — as did Joel Pineiro, who was lifted with the bases loaded and one out in the fifth. But Cuddyer drove Hisanori Takahashi’s first pitch to left-center for his fifth grand slam and the first by the Twins.
“He threw me a changeup and I was waiting for it,” Cuddyer said. “It that situation, man on third and less than two outs, I’m just basically trying to hit a sac fly. Fortunately, I was able to get a good part of the bat on it and was able to hit it out of the park. Delmon came up big with two homers and Kubel got one, so all around, it was a good night,” Cuddyer said. “We had a good approach at the plate. We were able to see the ball up and hit it.”
Pineiro (5-6) was charged with seven runs and seven hits in 4-1 innings. He is 0-3 with a whopping 14.85 ERA over his last four starts, and has failed to make it through the fifth in three of them.
“I wish I had an explanation for what is going on. I have no idea,” Pineiro said. “I feel healthy and good. I have tried everything that I can. Honestly the next thing I could do is sacrifice a live chicken. I just don’t know.”
Kubel hit his seventh homer in the seventh against Takahashi, and Cuddyer added his 18th in the ninth against Horacio Ramirez. The five home runs were season high for the Twins, as well as the Angels’ staff.
“Those guys swung the bats well tonight,” Scioscia said. “We just had too many hitting counts for our guys to really get past anything. I think that has really been haunting Joel in his last handful of starts and that is a rough combination.
“It is easy to see that the ball isn’t coming out of his hand the way that it needs to and his command isn’t there. Joel is strong when he is commanding the count and getting contact on his terms and making pitches. He hasn’t been doing that lately. It has been a rough go. We are going to keep searching and going.”
The Angels spotted Minnesota a 3-0 lead before pulling ahead with a four-run third. Bourjos led off with a drive into the lower seats in the left field corner, ending a streak of seven starts and 52 2-3 innings for Baker in which he did not allow a home run. Torii Hunter got the Halos even with a two-out, two-run single, and Alberto Callaspo capped the rally with an RBI single before he was erased in a rundown.
“I knew what I needed to do to be successful tonight, but it just wasn’t happening,” said Baker, who threw 45 pitches in the third inning. “There’s very few times you have an inning with 40-something pitches, and that’s kind of hard to recover from. I just felt like I was surviving tonight and not thriving. I was just getting by. I wasn’t able to put guys away tonight, and they battled. There were a couple of occasions where I really could have used a good two-strike pitch.”
Young, who hadn’t hit a home run since June 9, tied it in the fourth with his fourth of the season and second in as many at-bats. In the second inning, he followed a leadoff single by Danny Valencia with a drive over the fence in left-center. It was Young’s third career two-homer game and first since Oct. 4, 2009 against Kansas City.
“With a sinkerball pitcher, you’ve got to just stay with it,” Young said. “You can’t try to pull the ball because you’re going to beat it right into the ground. I just happened to get a couple of balls up and put good swing on them.”
After going 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position in their 5-1 loss to Ervin Santana on Friday night, the Twins cashed in on their first attempt against Pineiro. Joe Mauer, who came in 14 for 20 against the right-hander with no strikeouts, singled home a run in the first after Ben Revere singled and stole second.
Including his no-decision, Baker is 1 for 5 lifetime against the Angels with a 4.77 ERA in 11 career starts, and 0-5 with a 6.53 ERA at Anaheim. In his other start against them this season on May 27 in Minnesota, he scattered six hits over seven innings and left with a 5-0 lead before the Halos rallied with five in the eighth and one in the ninth for a 6-5 victory.
Notes: Cuddyer is the only player still with the Twins from their 2002 AL Championship Series loss to the Angels. … Young started as the designated hitter in place of Jim Thome, who didn’t play because of stiffness in his neck. … When Young homered, he became the 60th consecutive batter Piniero had faced without a strikeout. That drought ended when the next hitter, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, looked at a called third strike. … Bourjos’ homer was the first allowed by Baker since June 6 at Cleveland, when Michael Brantley hit a solo shot against him. … Baker came in with a .568 winning percentage (64-48) is the fourth-best in Twins history behind Johan Santana (.679), Camilo Pascual (.607) and Mudcat Grant (.588). … After Thursday night’s series finale, the Twins return to Target Field on Friday night to begin a series against the White Sox — which will begin a three-day celebration of the 20th anniversary of Minnesota’s 1991 World Series title. More than 15 players from that team are scheduled to take part, along with former manager Tom Kelly.
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