Hunter HRs, Wilson solid in Angels' win over Twins
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By GREG BEACHAM
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) At least one Angels slugger has rediscovered his power stroke, and it isn't Albert Pujols.
Even after a homerless month for Los Angeles' $240 million man, Torii Hunter is confident it won't be long before Pujols joins him in driving the Angels to victory.
C.J. Wilson pitched five-hit ball into the eighth inning, Hunter homered and drove in three runs, and the Angels returned from a rough road trip with a 4-3 victory over the miserable Minnesota Twins on Monday night.
Chris Iannetta also homered in the Angels' second victory in eight games, scoring at least four runs for the first time in that stretch. Hunter did much of the work with his third homer in four games along with an RBI single, and he's confident the Angels' struggling lineup is ready to break out.
"It's contagious," Hunter said. "When guys start hitting, one guy gets hot, you all feel pretty good. Somebody is trying to pick it up, and that's what I want to do. That's what you try to do, just lead by example. ... You can see the sparks. The lighter isn't there yet, but we're sparking it."
Pujols had a first-inning double for his first extra-base hit in 11 days, but went 1 for 4 while extending his homerless streak with the Angels to 23 games and 92 at-bats, the second-longest of his career.
"It was a tough month for everybody," said Pujols, who's batting .217. "I think Torii is the only one who's swinging the bat well. It's really crazy to see the whole ballclub go through this."
Pujols got his eighth double of the season in the first inning before flying out, striking out and popping to shallow center. Although he hit a beautiful line drive that curled a few feet foul in the fifth inning, he's creeping up on the longest homerless drought of his career - a 27-game, 107-at-bat slump last season in St. Louis.
"We're glad, and we hope we don't oblige and let him get one," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "But you know it's there, and you know it's going to happen. He's a great hitter and a great player. It's just a matter of time. He'll figure out something, like he always does every year, and he'll be tearing up this league before it's all said and done. We just hope we're not the team he decides to go off on."
Hunter started the season in an 18-game homerless drought mirroring Pujols' struggles. Hunter has a hit in 11 straight games against Minnesota, where he played 11 seasons.
Alexi Casilla and Denard Span broke up Wilson's shutout bid with run-scoring hits in the eighth for the Twins, who opened a six-game West Coast road trip with their seventh loss in eight games. Minnesota snapped a six-game skid Sunday, but the Twins have the majors' worst record at 6-16.
Nick Blackburn (0-3) yielded seven hits and three runs in six innings, coming back solidly from a 30-pitch first inning for Minnesota, and cleanup hitter Justin Morneau went 0 for 2 before getting pulled for a pinch-hitter because of a sore left wrist.
"The ball was coming out of my hand well, but one mistake really hurt us - a curve ball to Torii that I shouldn't have thrown," Blackburn said. "I've seen that guy plenty of times, and I should know better. I've got to make that pitch perfect."
Twins catcher Joe Mauer missed his first game of the season to rest his sore left knee. The former MVP and three-time AL batting champion had played every inning so far for Minnesota, but decided the road trip opener was a good day to rest after he got hit by a foul tip in the ninth inning of Minnesota's win over Kansas City on Sunday.
The Angels returned from a 1-5 road trip in last place in the AL West, already trailing Texas by nine games in their first month with Pujols and Wilson (3-2), who has pitched at least six innings in five straight quality starts.
"The first seven innings were about as well as I've pitched all year, and I think the team had a lot of confidence coming back home," Wilson said. "I came out in the eighth inning and was a little amped (about a shutout), tried to do too much, and it bit me."
Wilson had four strikeouts while earning his first home victory for the Angels in his native Orange County, but he gave up three runs in the eighth. LaTroy Hawkins yielded Danny Valencia's RBI single before Scott Downs induced Ryan Doumit's inning-ending grounder, stranding two runners.
Downs, who unseated Jordan Walden as the Angels' closer last week, pitched the ninth to earn his second save.
NOTES: Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire expects Mauer to play Tuesday, when Francisco Liriano takes the mound against Jerome Williams, the Angels' fifth starter. ... Casilla, who had three hits, singled and stole two bases in the third inning, but was stranded at third. ... Angels SS Erick Aybar went 0 for 3, extending his slump to 2 for 21 since Los Angeles' last homestand, when he got a new $35 million contract.
Updated May 1, 2012