Izturis hits first grand slam, Escobar frustrates Twins’ anemic offense in 10-1 thumping

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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—The Los Angeles Angels’ run total Friday night must have seemed like two weeks worth to the Minnesota Twins—and to Angels pitcher Kelvim Escobar.

Maicer Izturis hit his first career grand slam to help Escobar end a personal three-game losing streak and the AL West leaders routed the Twins 10-1 on Friday night. It was the first time in the right-hander’s last six starts that his team scored more than three runs. Had it not been for Escobar’s 2.74 ERA, second-best in the AL, his record could have been much worse.

“Every time he pitches, he knows he went out there and did his job,” teammate Chone Figgins said. “It’s just that, for some reason, he doesn’t get a lot of run support—except tonight.”

Escobar (12-6) allowed a run and five hits over six innings. He struck out four, walked one and escaped bases-loaded jams in the third and sixth innings.

It was the fifth time in six games that the Twins scored fewer than two runs. The only aberration during that stretch was Wednesday’s 11-4 win at Kansas City. They have scored a major league-low 84 runs since the All-Star break, and their team scoring slump is reaching epidemic proportions.

“It’s tough, man,” Torii Hunter said. “All year we’ve been inconsistent. We’ll show promise for two or three games, and then we stink for about seven games. It’s been a roller coaster. We just need to find that consistency. It’s getting late though. You can’t keep saying that. I’ve been saying it for three months now.”

Hunter, Joe Mauer, Michael Cuddyer and 2006 AL MVP Justin Morneau all are hitting under .300. As a result, the Twins are 6 1/2 games out of first place and slipping in the wild card race.

“We’ve got guys like myself, Morneau, Mauer and Cuddyer, and we’re trying to do it,” Hunter said. “The bottom of the lineup are slap hitters and smaller guys, so I’m sure the pitchers would rather face those guys. So it puts a lot of pressure on the middle guys.”

Escobar intentionally walked Mauer, the reigning AL batting champ, in the third and escaped his first bases-loaded jam by retiring Cuddyer on a flyball. In the sixth,Twins rookie Alexi Casilla, a former Angels minor league prospect who took over as the regular second baseman in Minnesota following the trade of Luis Castillo to the New York Mets on July 30, was called out on strikes with the bases loaded.

When asked if a lineup shuffle was in order, Twins beleaguered manager Ron Gardenhire didn’t have much of a response—because he doesn’t have much of a choice.

“We don’t have that many options, really, as far as shuffling the lineup goes,” Gardenhire said. “We’ve got the people in the lineup that we believe in. It’s just a matter of getting hits and stringing them together. But an overall restructuring of the lineup—I don’t think we’re quite deep enough to do those things.”

Angels manager Mike Scioscia knows he doesn’t have much any pop in his lineup, so he has his players run the bases aggressively. And it’s paid off. The Angels lead the AL West by 3 1/2 games over Seattle and have gone from first to third more times than any other club.

“For teams that don’t hit for a lot power, baserunning is more important,” Figgins said. “Taking extra bases—going from first to third, stealing bases— it gives your hitters a lot more opportunities to succeed because they’re not always hitting with a runner at first and one or two outs. And when you have runners at first and third or second and third with less than two outs, it opens up a lot of holes for you.”

Scott Baker (6-5) gave up six runs and nine hits in 5 1-3 innings, walking three and striking out four. In his previous two starts, the right-hander allowed one run over 16 innings. He is 0-4 with a 7.36 ERA in five career starts against the Angels.

The Angels extended the margin to 6-1 with four runs in the sixth. Izturis drove an 0-1 pitch deep into the right-field seats for his fourth homer and second in four games. On Monday night, he hit a tiebreaking solo shot off Curt Schilling in the seventh inning of a 4-2 win over the Red Sox.

Los Angeles broke it open in the seventh with RBI singles by Kotchman, Jeff Mathis and Reggie Willits, followed by Chone Figgins’ sacrifice fly.

Notes

Escobar has issued only seven intentional walks in 608 1-3 innings spanning his 92 starts with the Angels. … Cuddyer was hitless in three-at-bats against Escobar and is 0-for-13 lifetime against him. … Minnesota’s Tommy Watkins pinch-hit for DH Jason Kubel in the eighth and grounded out to second in his major league debut, after nine-plus seasons in the minor leagues. … Escobar’s other start against the Twins this season was a three-hitter which resulted in a 5-1 victory on June 5 at Angel Stadium. Baker was the losing pitcher in that one, too.

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