ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—Hitting in the cleanup spot behind Vladimir Guerrero is starting to grow on Gary Matthews, who is making teams pay for intentionally walking the 2004 MVP in front of him.
Matthews had four hits, including his third career grand slam, helping the Los Angeles Angels rout Minnesota 16-3 on Monday night.
The Twins walked Guerrero in the sixth inning before Matthews’ RBI single off Boof Bonser, and again in the eighth before Matthews’ homered off rookie Jason Miller. Last Friday, the Baltimore Orioles intentionally walked Guerrero with two outs and Matthews followed with a two-run single.
Guerrero leads the AL with 18 free passes, but Matthews doesn’t expect that to change no matter how well he’s hitting.
“He’ll continue to lead the league in intentional walks. That’s just the truth,” Matthews said. “Maybe if we bring someone in here like David Ortiz or Manny Ramirez, they’ll think twice about it. But I think as long as I’m in that slot, they’ll keep doing what they feel they need to do—and hopefully I’ll continue to have solid at-bats so I can get more of the same results.”
Orlando Cabrera matched his career high with four hits, Guerrero had three, and both had two RBIs. Casey Kotchman, Mike Napoli and Garret Anderson homered for the Angels, who had a season-high 23 hits. It was their highest total since May 10, 2002, when they had 24 against the White Sox.
“It’s definitely a lot easier when everybody’s hitting,” said Matthews, who began the season batting leadoff before Anderson got injured. “They always say hitting is contagious, but it really seems like it is. It builds confidence for the rest of the guys in the lineup and makes guys take it to another level.”
The Angels (37-22) are off to the best start in franchise history and are a major league-best 23-8 at home. They’ve won 15 of their last 19 overall and are 15 games over .500 for the first time this season.
Jered Weaver (5-3) won his fourth straight decision, allowing a run and eight hits over seven innings.
Bonser (4-2), who won his previous four starts, allowed six runs and 12 hits over 5 1-3 innings. The two homers equaled the number he had allowed over his previous seven outings, spanning 41 2-3 innings.
“The game plan was to throw strikes and get them out. I threw my strikes, they just hit the ball where we weren’t,” Bonser said. “That’s what the American League is—a bunch of good hitters. I just tried to limit the damage.”
Torii Hunter tied the game 1-all in the second inning with his 12th homer, but the Angels regained the lead in the fifth with Cabrera’s RBI single and Guerrero’s run-scoring double.
Kotchman triggered a five-run sixth inning with his sixth home run. Howie Kendrick singled and Napoli followed with his seventh homer, chasing Bonser. Former Angels righty Ramon Ortiz took over and gave up RBI singles to Cabrera and Matthews.
Kotchman wasn’t surprised that he got the green light on 3-0 from manager Mike Scioscia.
“Mike’s given it to me before, depending on the game situation, so I wasn’t caught off-guard,” Kotchman said. “The game was still close at that point, and it looked like runs were going to be at a premium. So it you get a pitch, swing. If not, take the walk.”
Guerrero, whose two-run walkoff homer in the ninth inning on Sunday gave the Angels a 4-3 win over Baltimore, was thrown out twice on the basepaths in the first four innings by Twins right fielder Michael Cuddyer—once at third and once at home. The assists increased Cuddyer’s season total to 11, the most in the majors.
The Angels added eight runs in the eighth highlighted by Matthews’ grand slam. Anderson followed with a solo shot—his first homer since coming off the disabled list Sunday.
Twins 1B Justin Morneau, who hit .380 with 10 home runs, 29 RBIs and 21 runs scored in 27 games during May, was named the AL player of the month—an award that escaped him last season when he was named the league’s MVP. “It’s kind of funny how that worked out,” Morneau said. “But any time you’re recognized for anything, it’s pretty cool and something that I’m proud of.”