The Minnesota Twins opened their longest road trip in 39 years on a successful note.
The surging Twins look for more of the same while trying for a fourth straight victory as they continue their four-game set with the first-place Los Angeles Angels on Friday night.
Nick Punto tripled off the center-field fence out of the reach of former Twin Torii Hunter and scored on a single by rookie Denard Span to give Minnesota (73-54) a 2-1, 12-inning victory to kick off a 14-game road swing.
“We’ve seen him make plenty of catches like that, and I’m glad he didn’t make it,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Hunter. “We got a little lucky there.”
The Twins have won 11 of their last 14 contests and are one-half game back of AL Central-leading Chicago - which was idle Thursday - and tied with Boston for the wild-card lead.
With the Republican National Convention coming to the Twin Cities from Sept. 1-4, Minnesota has embarked on its longest road stretch since 1969 when it had trips of 15 and 16 straight away from home. The Twins are 27-31 on the road in 2008 compared to 46-23 at the Metrodome.
Span and Carlos Gomez each had two hits and two RBIs as the Twins improved to 2-3 this season versus Los Angeles (77-49), which has lost six of its last eight but still holds a 15-game lead in the AL West.
Span is batting .347 (26-for-75) with 11 RBIs over his last 18 games for Minnesota, which is scheduled to face Los Angeles All-Star Joe Saunders on Friday.
Saunders (14-5, 3.14 ERA) banged his left shoulder on the knee of teammate Howie Kendrick while reaching for a ground ball in the third inning of a 4-3 loss to Cleveland on Sunday. The left-hander stayed in the game and did not factor in the decision after allowing three runs with eight hits in five innings.
“(My shoulder) tightened up a little bit, but I’m not coming out of the game because of something like that,” said Saunders, who looks for his third straight winning decision, but hasn’t factored in his last three. “It should be fine. I’m not planning on missing my next start.”
Saunders is 2-0 with a 1.20 ERA in his career versus Minnesota and allowed four hits in eight innings of a 1-0 road win over the Twins on April 2.
Minnesota counters with Glen Perkins (10-3, 4.17), who’ll try for his fourth straight winning decision despite not being sharp in his most recent outing. He allowed four runs and eight hits in six innings of an 11-8 win over Seattle on Sunday, but improved to 8-1 over his last 11 starts.
“It’s just as frustrating, but the good thing is we won this game,” Perkins told the Twins official Web site.
The left-hander will make his first appearance against the Angels.
Mark Teixeira homered in the first inning for the Angels, who were held to five hits Thursday. Teixeira is batting .351 (26-for-74) with five home runs and 17 RBIs in 20 games since being traded to Los Angeles from Atlanta.
Garret Anderson went 0-for-5 on Thursday, ending his 23-game hitting streak. He is batting .190 (4-for-21) against Minnesota this season.
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