ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—Although Justin Morneau(notes) took the AL lead in both homers and RBIs with a noisy day at the plate, Minnesota’s slugger gave more credit to a rookie pitcher for waking the Twins out of a big sleep.
Denard Span(notes) homered and drove in a season-high four runs, and even light-hitting Nick Punto(notes) added a season-best three RBIs as Minnesota ended a four-game losing streak. The rebound came one day after a closed-door meeting in which the Twins worried aloud whether their season was slipping away.
“Any time you get pitching like that, it gives you a little boost,” Morneau said. “You’re not trying to hit three-run homers because you’re down by seven. … We needed it for ourselves, for our confidence. They beat us around pretty good for the last three days, so it was good to come back and do that to them—for one game, anyway.”
With Morneau providing the biggest blasts on his way to racking up 26 homers and 82 RBIs, Minnesota salvaged the final day of a disappointing 10-game road trip with 12 hits and a sterling effort from Swarzak (3-3), a most unlikely streak-stopper.
The right-hander allowed just four hits and three walks in his eighth career start, throwing 121 pitches against one of the majors’ most productive offenses. He’s filling in while Kevin Slowey(notes) recovers from a wrist injury, but Swarzak looks increasingly comfortable in the big leagues—and with Slowey now shut down indefinitely, the Twins need him even more.
“I don’t know if I’d call myself a stopper yet,” said Swarzak, who acknowledged a serious case of nerves while walking two batters in the first inning. “They’re a real hot team. They’ve got some great hitters over there. To be able to stop them is big.”
Kendry Morales’(notes) fourth-inning homer was the first hit for Los Angeles, which scored 62 runs during its streak before sputtering on a sweltering day in Orange County. Twins reliever Jose Mijares(notes) was sent to a hospital after feeling faint during the early innings, but manager Ron Gardenhire expects him to be fine.
Morneau hit a two-run homer in the first inning and a solo shot in the seventh as the Twins battered Los Angeles starter Ervin Santana(notes) (3-6) for six runs. A 16 game-winning All-Star last year, Santana couldn’t get through the fourth inning in the latest discouraging start of his injury-plagued season.
“I made good pitches, and they still just hit the ball, like a blooper or a ground ball,” said Santana, who has missed significant time this season with a sprained elbow ligament and an inflamed triceps. “I think I pitched better than (the statistics). … I don’t know about the gun, but I feel like (the ball) is coming out of my hand better.”
Los Angeles lost for just the second time in 14 games. The Angels’ AL West lead over Texas dropped back to 3 1/2 games with the end of their longest win streak since August 2004.
Swarzak mostly baffled the Angels in just his second victory in seven starts, although the Twins’ lineup removed most of the pressure early on. Swarzak retired nine straight before Morales’ 18th homer, and his ERA dropped to 3.74.
Punto, the slap-hitting shortstop who entered the game batting .202, had his first three-RBI game of the season. He snapped a 5-for-24 skid with a two-run single in the fourth.
“It’s been an inconsistent year for me, to say the least,” Punto said. “We’ve got some guys in the middle of this lineup that are having All Star-caliber years, and if we can start pulling our weight at the bottom of the order, we can get right back in this race.”
Span also had a two-run single in the fourth to chase Santana. The Twins’ leadoff hitter added a two-run homer in the eighth.
Notes: Gardenhire went to the bullpen in the fourth inning to check on Mijares, who was hooked up to a heart monitor. Gardenhire said the hospital’s tests on Mijares looked good. “It was scary, though,” Gardenhire said. “It wasn’t about the game after that.” … Morneau had his 12th career multihomer game. … Santana has given up at least five runs in all but one home start this season.