A strong start to their longest road trip in 39 years has the Minnesota Twins back alone atop the AL Central standings.
The surging Twins hope to stay in that position as they try for a fifth straight victory while continuing their four-game series with the suddenly struggling first-place Los Angeles Angels on Saturday night.
After needing 12 innings to pull out a 2-1 victory in Thursday’s series opener, Minnesota (74-54) didn’t have to go nearly as long in a 9-0 win over Los Angeles on Friday. The victory—the Twins’ ninth in 11 contests—gave Minnesota a one-half game lead in the division over the Chicago White Sox, who lost 9-4 to Tampa Bay earlier in the evening.
“It’s fun to be bouncing back and forth,” said Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire as the Twins and White Sox continue to take turns holding the division lead. “All we can do is control our games and go out and play them and do the best we can. Hopefully we’ll stay in this thing the whole way. That’s what we plan on doing, and we’ll go from there.”
Rookie Denard Span went 3-for-5 with a three-run homer and four RBIs, while Delmon Young was 2-for-4 with a two-run home run and three RBIs for Minnesota, which is 2-0 on its 14-game road trip—the longest since the club had trips of 15 and 16 straight games in 1969.
Span is hitting .345 with two homers and 15 RBIs in 20 games this month and hopes to stay hot at the plate as the Twins try to hand Los Angeles’ Jon Garland his second straight loss.
Garland (11-8, 4.33 ERA) allowed four earned runs and 10 hits in six innings of a 6-4 loss at Tampa Bay on Monday for the Angels, who have lost seven of their last nine, but still hold a 15-game lead in the AL West.
“I still think our main concern is in this clubhouse,” Garland told the Angels’ official Web site. “If we don’t take care of business, we’re going to get beat.”
Though the right-hander has lost two of his last three outings, Garland allowed a run in eight innings of a 9-1 win at Minnesota on April 1 to improve to 8-8 with a 4.58 ERA in 24 starts against the Twins.
Juan Rivera had two of the six hits Friday for Los Angeles, which has 11 total through the first two games of the set.
“We just have to get back into our game,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “This is not anything that’s going to take a major overhaul. We just need a few tweaks here and there.”
Former Twins All-Star Torii Hunter went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts Friday and is 3-for-24 while striking out seven times in six games versus Minnesota this season.
The Angels hope to revive their offense while facing Minnesota’s Nick Blackburn (9-7, 3.71), who tries to avoid a second straight loss.
Blackburn allowed three runs and six hits in eight innings of a 3-2 loss to Oakland on Monday and is 0-1 with a 4.97 ERA in his last two starts since winning two straight.
The rookie right-hander gave up a run in seven innings in a 1-0 defeat to the Angels on April 2 in his only career appearance against them—also his first career start.