MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Jason Kubel received a standing ovation after grounding out. After getting eight hits in two days, he had earned it.
Kubel’s second consecutive four-hit game helped the Minnesota Twins beat the Los Angeles Angels 9-2 on Saturday night, but his biggest ovation came when he harmlessly rolled out in the eighth and trotted back to the dugout.
“That was pretty cool,” Kubel said. “I’ve never gotten one after rolling over and getting out.”
On Friday night, Kubel hit a go-ahead grand slam in the eighth against the Angels to complete the cycle in Minnesota’s 11-9 victory.
Kubel’s two-run double off Kevin Jepson (0-2) was the big hit in Minnesota’s five-run fifth. Brendan Harris had three hits and scored twice and Delmon Young drove in a season-high three runs for the Twins.
Jepson allowed five runs—four earned—in just two-thirds of an inning as the Angels’ bullpen came apart again. The bullpen’s 8.19 ERA going into Saturday’s game was the AL’s second worst.
“Kevin just really couldn’t get the ball into good zones early,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “His adjustments were a little slow out there.”
Darren Oliver made his first start since he was a member of the Houston Astros in 2004. The Angels needed a fifth starter for the first time since pitcher Nick Adenhart was killed by a drunken driver on April 9.
Scioscia said before the game Oliver would only throw between 40 and 50 pitches, but he was stretched out to 61 and left the game with a 2-1 lead after stranding a pair of baserunners to end the fourth.
Oliver’s performance mirrored that of Los Angeles’ other starters, who entered Saturday’s contest with an American League best 2.78 ERA.
“D.O., he was good,” Scioscia said. “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.”
But after putting up seven runs in the eighth Friday to come back from a five-run deficit, the Twins’ first five batters reached base against Jepson in the fifth with Kubel’s double putting Minnesota ahead 4-2.
Kubel was hitting just .226 entering Friday, but is now up to .366.
“Right now we’re just trying to get everybody on base before Kubel gets up there and see what happens,” Harris said.
It was more than enough support for Slowey, who threw a career-high 112 pitches but allowed only two runs on six hits with a walk and a strikeout.
“I feel like my misses were a little less hittable than they were my first two starts,” Slowey said. “I still have plenty to work on, but I felt overall I was a little more comfortable and composed out there.”
Slowey struggled in his first two starts, giving up 10 runs on 22 hits. He was more effective Saturday while staying out of the strike zone more than usual — only 76 of his pitches were strikes.
“It’s not by design but it is by design because some guys throw too many strikes,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He needs to move people off the plate and he has to learn to miss a little more than he does because he throws so many strikes. Too many balls over the plate in this league can get you hurt.”
Bobby Abreu finished with two hits, a run scored and a stolen base for Los Angeles. Hunter’s home run was his fourth of the season. ^Notes: Twins OF Carlos Gomez snapped an 0-for-11 slump with a single in the third inning. … Kubel was in the lineup for the first time this season against a left-handed starting pitcher a night after becoming the third player in the last 100 years to finish a cycle with a grand slam, according to Elias Sports Bureau. His four hits for the second straight game marked the first time a Twins plater had back-to-back four-hit performances since Joe Mauer on June 26 and 27, 2006, against the Los Angeles Dodgers. … Scioscia said he hopes starters John Lackey (forearm) and Ervin Santana (elbow), both on the DL since the start of the season, will begin rehab assignments next week. … Jepson’s ERA ballooned to 19.29 in five appearances this season.