Twins' surge screeches to halt

Starters struggled and bats went cold as the Angels swept the three-game series.

– The Twins left sunny California for sweltering Texas on Thursday, wondering when it will come together.

They had just had a run of good pitching, leading them to believe that aspect of their game was finally in place. All they needed was the hitting to follow and they could sustain success.

The Angels, however, splashed cold water in their faces.

Big days from Mike Trout and Albert Pujols powered Los Angeles past the Twins 6-4 on Thursday to complete a three-game sweep of the series, one in which the Angels outscored the Twins 20-12. It was the first time the Twins were swept by the Angels since April 30 to May 2, 2012, at Angel Stadium. So much for the previous four-game winning streak that brought the Twins within two games of .500.

Trout doubled twice and drove in two runs. Pujols was 3-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored. The pair lit up the boxscore, and the Twins had no response.

“Those big boys come up in some big situations and they put some swings on it,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “[The Angels] can do a lot of different things. They can steal bases. They play good defense. We’ve seen that over the years with these guys.”

While the Rally Monkey can be annoying, it’s a sign the opponent has succeeded. The Rally Monkey spent this entire series in his villa, because the Twins trailed late in every game. Twins starting pitchers threw a total of 11 innings in three games. Throw in Phil Hughes’ clunker on Sunday and the past four Twins starters have posted a 12.94 ERA.

Righthander Ricky Nolasco was tagged for six runs over six innings on 11 hits — tying a season high — and one walk.

The Angels scored twice off him in the first on an RBI single by Pujols and ground-rule RBI double by Erick Aybar. Aybar’s hit was actually announced as a “sun double,” as shortstop Pedro Florimon struggled to track the pop-up down the left-field line. For some reason, he wasn’t wearing sunglasses, and Gardenhire nodded in agreement when asked if Florimon should have had them on.

Pujols drove in Trout with a double in the third and scored on Josh Hamilton’s single as the Angels took a 4-0 lead that gradually grew to 6-1.

Oswaldo Arcia drove in Joe Mauer with a single in the sixth for the Twins’ first run. Mauer lashed a bases-clearing double with two outs in the ninth as the Twins closed to 6-4, but Joe Smith struck out Kendrys Morales to end the game.

Mauer, after struggling most the season, is showing signs of life. Three more hits Thursday gave him a .414 average over his past seven games, but his surge comes right when the starting pitching is headed the other way.

“It’s tough any time you get swept,” Nolasco said. “That’s a very good team over there and they have been playing very good recently. We came in and fought really tough and came back in some games but fell short.”

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