3 up, 3 down: Angels 4, Twins 0
May, 1, 2012
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com
ANAHEIM -- The Angels took another tentative step toward digging themselves out of the crater they created in April.
Pitcher Jerome Williams pitched a shutout and the offense took another step forward against struggling starter Francisco Liriano as the Angels beat the Minnesota Twins 4-0. If they sweep the series Wednesday, they'd have their first three-game winning streak this season.
Hidden treasure. Whatever scout pulled Williams out of independent ball last year deserves a promotion. Williams has been solid for the Angels for nearly a year, but Tuesday he was ace-like in pitching his first complete game since 2003. Williams barely got into trouble all night. After he picked off Denard Span in the third, he set the next 17 batters down in order. He had a good breaking ball and struck out six batters and Angels infielders gobbled up groundball after groundball.
Torii's tear. At 36, Torii Hunter might be playing the best baseball of his life. He has hit a home run in four of the last five games, is batting .387 over his last eight games and has been making laser throws from the outfield. Span, Minnesota's speedy leadoff hitter, looked as if he were thinking double on his line drive in the gap in the third, but Hunter threw a strike to second and Span retreated.
Double shy. The scrutiny has been on Albert Pujols, but it wasn't as if the other players in the lineup were tearing the cover off the ball. One of the guys in a deep slump was Howie Kendrick, but that ended Tuesday rather loudly. Kendrick went 3-for-4 and finished a double short of the cycle, lining out to the first baseman in his final at-bat.
May Day, May Day! It wasn't just an April thing. Pujols' slump goes on, now 96 at-bats without a home run, though he picked up his first RBI in 15 games with a fielder's choice chopper off the plate. It tells you how Pujols is going that the Twins pitched to him with a runner at second and one out in the fifth, but intentionally walked Hunter.
Aybar dropping. Maybe it's a coincidence, but Erick Aybar hasn't looked like the same guy since signing a four-year extension on April 19. He made a pair of errors the night he signed his deal and he's been in a fairly deep hitting funk lately, two hits in his last 24 at-bats. For now, his days as the leadoff hitter are over.
Opportunity knocks (and knocks). The Angels could have done a lot more damage against Francisco Liriano, who significantly lowered his ERA by allowing four runs in 5 2/3 innings. Instead, they wasted opportunities. They stranded Kendrick at third after a leadoff triple in the fourth, couldn't take advantage of two walks in the fifth and Kendrick got picked off first after leading off the sixth with a single. It's not like they've been so flush with base runners lately that they can let chances pass them by.