3 Up, 3 Down: Angels 4, Twins 3

April, 30, 2012
4/30/12
9:48
PM PT
ANAHEIM -- The offense showed signs of stirring to life and closer Scott Downs worked a little overtime to help the Angels get their second win in the last eight games, a 4-3 victory over the last-place Minnesota Twins.

Out of reliable alternatives, manager Mike Scioscia brought in Downs with two outs in the eighth inning and the veteran lefty got the final four outs to preserve a solid start by C.J. Wilson.

The Good:

Wilson's WAR. Normally, the riskiest proposition in baseball is to sign a starting pitcher to a big, multi-year deal. But the early returns have been promising on C.J. Wilson. He has made five starts, all quality. Monday was one of his best, an efficient 7 1/3 innings in which Wilson struck out four and got 12 groundball outs. He also fielded well, combining with defensive specialist Albert Pujols on five outs. Wilson, who grew up in Huntington Beach, was a little shaky in his home debut against Oakland, walking three batters and needing 112 pitches to get through six innings, but he gave Angels fans plenty to be excited about Monday. They gave him a standing ovation in the eighth.

Getting hot. There's really only one guy on this team having consistently quality at-bats and that's Torii Hunter. The veteran outfielder hit his third home run in his last four games, a two-run shot in the fourth, and also singled home Pujols in the first to do most of the heavy lifting for the offense. Hunter had more than 25 percent (8 of 31) of the Angels' hits on the last road trip. He has driven in Pujols as many times, four, as Pujols has driven in anybody.

Getting warm. The other guy showing signs of breaking out is Kendrys Morales, who reached base three times Monday and is 5 for his last 11. He's also showing greater patience. After going 18 games without walking, he has walked four times in the last five games. Mike Trout probably fits under "getting warm," too. The 20-year old roped a double to left for his first major-league hit this year and nearly legged out a routine chopper to the first baseman.

The Bad:

Just foul. The drought came so close to ending, but it lives at least another day. Pujols made a loud clap while hitting a line drive down the left-field line in the fifth inning off Nick Blackburn, but the ball hooked just foul, scattering fans in the corner. He came that close to not having to answer any more questions about his homer-less streak, now at 92 at-bats. He did, however, hit a bloop double. He has a team-high eight two-base hits.

Sliding down. Howie Kendrick has joined Pujols in the "coldest of the cold" category. He is 0 for his last 10 and Mike Scioscia slid him out of the two-hole to hit sixth Monday. Kendrick has looked poise for big things this year, but his struggles in conjunction with Pujols' have sapped the Angels order of any early oomph.

Setup struggles. In its ninth save opportunity, the Angels bullpen picked up its third save. Downs has stabilized the last inning, but the Angels still have major problems getting to the end of games. LaTroy Hawkins relieved Wilson with one out in the eighth inning and promptly gave up two hits to let an inherited runner score and put the game in doubt.

Mark Saxon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
C.J. Wilson
WINS ERA SO IP
2 4.21 28 25
OTHER LEADERS
BAM. Trout .315
HRA. Pujols 8
RBIA. Pujols 20
RM. Trout 17
OPSA. Pujols .976
ERAG. Richards 2.52
SOC. Wilson 28