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Thursday, April 12, 2012
3 up, 3 down: Twins 10, Angels 9

By Mark Saxon

The Angels' biggest worry is proving more troublesome than they feared.

The bullpen has blown leads in back-to-back games, but Thursday's unraveling bordered on spectacular. In part because of an ankle injury to Scott Downs, two Angels relievers were thrust into high-leverage roles, and the result was a 10-9 loss to the Minnesota Twins in which the Angels frittered away leads of 6-0 and 7-6.

It was the first time the Angels had blown a six-run lead and lost since 1994.

The Good:

Igniting Pete. Peter Bourjos' inside-the-park home run Wednesday was the essence of his game, pure speed, hustle and energy in motion. It seems to have awakened his bat, as well. Bourjos had some clutch hits, including the go-ahead single in the eighth inning after the Angels had blown an early six-run lead.

Fighting to the end. As poorly as the bullpen pitched, the Angels had every opportunity to shut it down and get ready to go play higher-profile games in New York. The offense rallied after having seen leads blown -- twice -- nearly tying it in the ninth inning. The tying run got to second base against closer Matt Capps, but the Angels couldn't get the run in.

Bouncing back. Dan Haren wasn't exactly crisp judging by the nine hits he allowed, but it was a step forward after his rough outing Saturday at home against Kansas City. Haren struck out seven Twins and pitched well enough, barely, for the Angels to get out of town with a win and some confidence. Unfortunately for him and the team, the bullpen didn't have his back.

The Bad:

Relief mess 1. Kevin Jepsen might be throwing as hard as he ever has, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have to  make quality pitches. The big right-hander got hit hard in the seventh inning, giving up a home run to -- guess who? -- Josh Willingham, an Angel killer, and giving up three runs to snatch a win away from Dan Haren, who got through five shaky innings.

Relief mess 2. This time of the season is absolutely crucial for relievers, who are trying to pitch their way into key roles and cement their careers. Rich Thompson might have made it impossible for manager Mike Scioscia to use him in meaningful spots in the future. Scioscia entrusted Thompson with a delicate one-run lead after the offense had battled back, seeing two of its leads disappear. Thompson gave up a two-run home run to Justin Morneau but couldn't contain the damage even after that, letting it get out of hand.

Out of sorts. The heart of the Angels' order was hardly beating most of the game. Howie Kendrick, Albert Pujols and Torii Hunter were a combined 2-for-14 and didn't drive in a run. Pujols will have the (slight) embarrassment of bringing his .217 early batting average into his first game at the new Yankee Stadium on Friday afternoon. Think Yankees fans will let him hear about it?