MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Without Jered Weaver, starting pitching has been an early-season problem for the Los Angeles Angels.
Joe Blanton hasn’t done much to help the cause.
Joe Mauer had a home run among his four hits and drove in three runs for the Minnesota Twins in an 8-2 victory over the Angels on a cold, windy Monday night that helped send several fly balls to the deepest parts of Target Field.
“I’ve just been a little bit off. I’ve not been locating my fastball like I did in spring,” Blanton said. “That’s kind of the key for a lot of pitchers.”
Kevin Correia (1-1) earned his first American League win after finishing seven innings for the third time in as many starts with the Twins, getting two double-play grounders to help him limit the Angels to solo home runs by Peter Bourjos and former Twins utility infielder Brendan Harris.
Blanton (0-3) was battered again for nine hits, one walk and four runs in 4 2-3 innings. Mauer doubled and scored in the first and led off the fifth inning with a homer to left-center. Trevor Plouffe also went deep off Blanton, and Justin Morneau drove in a run with a double.
Mauer added RBI singles against relievers in the sixth and eighth, when Pedro Florimon also hit a two-run double.
The Angels, with the sixth-highest payroll in the majors this season, fell to 4-9.
“I don’t know if you can put it all on the starting pitching, but you talk about it being the heartbeat of the club. It’s where everything starts,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “You have to establish the fact of getting guys one after another pitching to a certain point of the game, deep enough where you keep certain roles in the bullpen and giving yourself a chance to win. That’s been a little bit hit and miss. Well, it’s been mostly miss.”
Correia gave up eight hits and a walk while striking out five. When he signed a $10 million, two-year contract last winter, it did little to excite Twins fans. But the 32-year-old has been by far their best starter so far with a 2.95 ERA.
Correia was supposed to pitch on Sunday, but an endless blend of snow, sleet and rain prompted the Twins to postpone that game against the New York Mets until August. The forecast for this week isn’t much friendlier for baseball, with the Wednesday night game in question due to possible rain.
The first-pitch temperature was 38 degrees, actually the third-warmest of six home games for the Twins in this frosty start to the season. The wind was gusting toward center field at 16 mph, and it showed.
Bourjos, the slap-hitting speedster in the leadoff spot for now, sent a drive into the left-center bullpen on Correia’s fourth pitch. Harris, whose last major league home run was for the Twins on April 8, 2010, against the Angels, hit one nearby to start the third inning.
But Correia didn’t let that bother him. Mike Trout had a pair of two-out hits but was stranded both times. Albert Pujols was 1 for 4. Josh Hamilton was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts.
“You’ve got Trout. You’ve got Pujols. You’ve got Hamilton. It’s not a good time to start feeling sorry for yourself with those guys coming up. So you’ve really got to refocus,” Correia said.
Blanton bore the brunt of the breeze, but he’s been throwing a bunch of hittable pitches all month. As one of three newcomers in the rotation with Tommy Hanson and Jason Vargas, Blanton has an 8.59 ERA over three starts. He has allowed 26 hits and six home runs in 14 2-3 innings.
Garrett Richards, on Saturday, was the only Angels starter to pitch into the seventh inning in 13 games this year. Weaver, the staff ace and three-time All-Star, is out for at least another three weeks because of a broken bone in his left (non-throwing) elbow.
“It’s early. You can only say that for so long. Three starts in, I think you look at history. I think guys will turn around once we start going that seven innings and hopefully be able to stay there,” Blanton said.
NOTES: Trout had his team-high sixth multihit game, going 2 for 4 to raise his average to .286. … Scioscia said SS Erick Aybar, rehabilitating a bruised left heel at the team’s spring training facility in Arizona, isn’t close yet to beginning baseball activities. … Vargas will pitch on Tuesday, with Mike Pelfrey taking the mound for the Twins. … Harris went 117 at-bats between home runs. He has 30 home runs in 1,603 career at-bats. Harris spent the last two seasons with Triple-A teams for Baltimore and Colorado. He played in Aybar’s place.
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