Izturis helps Angels beat Twins
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—Angels manager Mike Scioscia wasn’t too comfortable with the way the Minnesota Twins’ infield was guarding against a bunt by Maicer Izturis, so he called him over and told him to swing away.
Izturis did just that, hitting his third home run in 11 at-bats to drive in the tying and go-ahead runs for Los Angeles in the eighth inning of a 4-3 victory Saturday night.
One of the team’s least-likely power threats at 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds, Izturis hit his first career grand slam in Friday night’s 10-1 victory and a tiebreaking shot off Boston’s Curt Schilling in Monday’s win.
“He’s come up with some big ones for us,” said Angels pitcher John Lackey, who earned his 15th win. “The guys were kind of giving him a hard time, and I was asking him if he’s been doing some extra lifting. He’s just run into a couple of pitches pretty well. This is definitely not a home run hitter’s park, so to go out of here is a real poke.”
Izturis isn’t getting too caught up in his sudden power surge, and he insisted he won’t try to keep hitting home runs.
“I don’t expect that to be a problem,” Izturis said through a translator. “My mentality and the type of player I am is not going to change at all. There’s no way I’m going to go up there looking for home runs. I’m very honest about who I am—a guy that hits the ball on the ground and hits it the other way.”
Minnesota right-hander Carlos Silva held the AL West leaders to two hits through the first seven innings—both singles by Orlando Cabrera. But Silva came out after 88 pitches because of a cramp in his hamstring that cropped up just before he gave up a leadoff single to Cabrera in the seventh.
Silva finished that inning, but had to give way to Pat Neshek (6-2). Gary Matthews Jr. led off the eighth and reached on an error by second baseman and former Angels prospect Alexi Casilla. It was a bad omen for Neshek, who came in having allowed only four hits to the first batter in his previous 47 appearances this season.
“The first batter was supposed to be an out, but we just missed the ball,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “That set the table for the whole inning. You get the first out, it could be all different because of the confidence factor. Pat didn’t make any pitches after that and just got the ball up.”
Casey Kotchman drove in Matthews with a double to center, setting the stage for Izturis’ fifth homer of the season, which cleared the 18-foot wall in right field.
“I was amazed that Izturis’ ball went out,” Neshek said. “I came in with a good fastball. It was up, but I still felt like he didn’t make great contact— and it just sailed out. I was actually backing up third, and I was in disbelief that it went over. There’s an aura going on around him, or something.”
Francisco Rodriguez pitched the ninth for his 29th save in 32 chances. After allowing an RBI infield single to Mike Redmond, Rodriguez struck out Rondell White and retired pinch-hitter Luis Rodriguez on a flyout to end it.
Lackey (15-6) allowed two runs and 10 hits over eight innings and struck out three. The right-hander minimized the damage by inducing inning-ending double plays in the sixth, seventh and eighth. He joined Boston’s Josh Beckett as the only 15-game winners in the majors.
Silva was sensational. He walked none and retired 18 of his first 19 batters before Cabrera led off the seventh with his second single of the game. Cabrera was erased on a double-play grounder by Vladimir Guerrero, the 17th double-play grounder the right-hander has induced this season.
But Silva’s effort outing wasn’t enough to overcome a popgun Twins offense that has scored two runs or less in six of their last seven games. Mauer and White had RBI singles for Minnesota.
The Twins wasted a one-out triple in the first by Jason Bartlett and a leadoff double in the second by Torii Hunter, who was erased in a rundown after Lackey fielded Michael Cuddyer’s comebacker. Cuddyer, who came in fighting a 3-for-25 slump, was dropped to sixth in the batting order for the first time this season, after batting either third or cleanup in his first 98 games.
Matthews was limited to DH duty for the second straight night because of inflammation in his left knee, the result of a collision at first base with Boston’s Kevin Youkilis in Wednesday’s 9-6 loss. … Minnesota’s Justin Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP, is in a 5-for-35 rut with no RBIs in his last 12 games. … The Twins are 12-44 when they score no more than three runs, and 46-14 the rest of the time. … Minnesota’s Jason Kubel strained his right oblique while striking out in the second inning and was replaced as DH by Redmond. “I don’t have an answer how long it’s going to be, but it’s not a short-term thing,” Gardenhire said.
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