ANAHEIM, Calif. – Sometimes it’s a sprint, and sometimes it’s a slog. The Twins seem to have mastered both lately.
In the span of three pitches, the Twins turned a three-run deficit into a tie game. And over the drip-drip-drip of a 35-pitch inning, they blew the game open with four more runs, ultimately collecting their seventh win in eight games, 8-3 over the Angels.
Minnesota widened its AL Central lead to a season-best 6 1/2 games by backing the solid start of Michael Pineda with the big finish of Marwin Gonzalez, who celebrated his first career start as a designated hitter by driving in three runs with a pair of extra-base hits.
“We have one of the best offenses in the league, and we have shown it. We never quit,” said Gonzalez, who after finding himself with a .159 average on May 1, has added 100 points to it in the past three weeks and now owns an 11-game hitting streak. “We can change the game in one inning. That’s basically what we did today.”
No kidding. Mike Trout hit his first home run against the Twins since 2015 in the first inning, and the Twins, fooled and foiled by Trevor Cahill, soon trailed 3-0. The L.A. righthander, who is tied for the major-league lead in home runs allowed, didn’t give up so much as a hit until Luis Arraez — remember that name — led off the fifth inning with a single, and no Twin advanced past first base in Cahill’s five innings.
But when Max Kepler, leading off the sixth, drove Cahill’s 90th pitch of the night, a low-and-outside changeup, off the right field wall, Angels manager Brad Ausmus went to the bullpen for righthander Justin Anderson.
Big mistake. Anderson threw one pitch, a slider over the plate, and Jorge Polanco stroked it just inside the foul line in right, an RBI double. Anderson then threw one more pitch, a hanging slider on the inside corner, and Gonzalez unloaded, driving a high fly just inside the right field foul pole. Three straight pitches, three straight hits, three big runs.
“Early on, he actually swung the bat reasonably well for the results he was getting,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said of Gonzalez. “And he’s finally just getting the results that he’s earned.”
The Angels turned to former Twins first-round pick Luke Bard the next inning, and his second-ever outing against his old organization went even worse than his first, a two-run inning last week in Target Field. Bard retired two of the first three batters he faced, misfiring only with a pitch that struck Jason Castro near his right knee. But then began another Twins surge, like so many that have made this weeklong road trip such a success.
Kepler singled. Polanco singled Castro home, putting the Twins in front. Gonzalez rocketed a pitch that bounced into the boulders and vines beyond center field, a ground-rule double that brought Kepler home.
Then Bard became distracted by baserunning. With Eddie Rosario at the plate, the Angels shifted drastically to the right, with third baseman Tommy La Stella standing some 80 feet from third base. That allowed Polanco to take a 42-foot lead, just a step or two from halfway down the line, and he danced and bluffed and kept Bard and the Angels off-balance.
“Polo did a very good job of being aware of what’s going on out on the field,” Baldelli said. “Making a decision while he’s out there to — not to say make something happen, but whatever he was given, he was going to take it.”
Catcher Jonathan Lucroy took a few steps toward the baserunner at one point, and Bard ran off the mound toward him, too. Eventually, Bard pitched to Rosario, and he hit a ground ball right into the shift toward right field. But second baseman Luis Rengifo cut in front of shortstop David Fletcher, and both missed the ball, allowing Polonco to jog home, Gonzalez to run in behind him, and the Twins to seal the game with a four-run inning.
Arraez made sure the scoring wasn’t over, however. The rookie started in Miguel Sano’s place and looked like the slugger himself when he walloped his first career home run to almost the same spot, just a few feet lower, than where Sano homered on Monday. It was Arraez’s second hit of the night, and seventh in his four-game career; only two Twins rookies have ever collected more hits, nine apiece, in their first four games: Josmil Pinto in 2013 and Kirby Puckett in 1984.