The Los Angeles Angels’ makeshift starting rotation has been holding its own despite an injury-riddled and tragic start to the season.
The rest of the team has not followed suit.
The AL West champions four of the past five seasons, the Angels (4-7) have perhaps encountered more adversity in the first few weeks of 2009 than they have in years.
Starting pitchers John Lackey, Ervin Santana, Kelvim Escobar and Dustin Moseley are all on the disabled list, while the team is still dealing with the death of rookie right-hander Nick Adenhart, who was killed by a drunk driver on April 9 hours after making his season debut.
Still, Los Angeles’ starters rank second in the AL with a 2.74 ERA after fill-in Darren Oliver allowed one run in four innings against the Twins on Saturday. However, the bullpen allowed eight runs in four innings of the Angels’ 9-2 loss, raising its ERA to 8.55 - second-highest in baseball.
The team’s relievers had already given up seven runs in the eighth inning of Friday’s 11-9 defeat.
“D.O., he was good,” Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia said of Oliver. “I think it magnifies the fact of not having him in the bullpen. There’s still a void there. So we’re trying to patch a bunch of holes here and try to get the best we can until we get settled.”
The Angels’ bats, now playing at least the next month without Vladimir Guerrero, also struggled Saturday, with Torii Hunter’s two-run home run in the second inning their only production. The team has now lost four of its last five to fall into a tie with Texas for last place in the division.
Minnesota (6-7) also lost seven of its first 11, but the Angels’ visit has helped its slumping offense get untracked.
Kubel has been the biggest factor in the Twins’ 20-run outburst in the first two games of the series. After hitting for the cycle Friday - a feat capped with a go-ahead grand slam - Kubel had four more hits Saturday.
He’s now 8-for-10 in the series with five runs scored and seven RBIs.
“Right now we’re just trying to get everybody on base before Kubel gets up there and see what happens,” Twins infielder Brendan Harris said.
Kubel’s hot streak has the Twins in position to go for their first three-game sweep of Los Angeles since Aug. 6-8, 1996, when the Angels were still known as the California Angels.
Minnesota will have a good chance at the feat if left-hander Glen Perkins (0-1, 1.69 ERA) pitches like he has in his first two starts. Although minimal run support has left Perkins without a victory, he has allowed just three runs in 16 innings.
“I’m comfortable and I know I have a spot (in the rotation) and I can do my thing,” Perkins said. “It’s a lot of weight off my shoulders just to be able to go out there and pitch every fifth day.”
Perkins tossed eight innings in his only previous start against the Angels on Aug. 22, leading Minnesota to a 9-0 win.
His opponent Sunday will be Shane Loux, another inexperienced Los Angeles starter serving as a stopgap for the Angels’ battered rotation. In his 2009 debut, Loux (0-0, 3.38) allowed two runs in 5 1-3 innings in his team’s 3-2, 10-inning loss at Seattle on Tuesday.