Twins salvage finale with long ball
Cuddyer, Punto drive in five runs with homers vs. Angels
ANAHEIM -- Coming off four straight losses where their offense didn't show much life, it would have been easy for the Twins to come to the field Wednesday morning hanging their heads and accepting easy defeat.And for the first three innings of their finale against the Angels, the Twins pretty much looked that way. Then, unexpectedly, there was a spark. Two big home runs, a two-run shot by Michael Cuddyer in the fourth and a three-run blast by Nick Punto in the fifth, helped the Twins avoid a sweep by the Angels with an 8-5 victory. "We salvaged the road trip," Punto said. "We played a real tough team here in Anaheim. They are all swinging the bat really well. It was good to just get one. It would have been a lot tougher to go into the off-day after being swept." The West Coast has always seemed to be a house of horrors for the Twins. It certainly appeared that way this trip, as the Twins struggled to produce any kind of offense when facing dominant pitcher after dominant pitcher. And Wednesday, the club looked to be writing the same tale with Angels right-hander John Lackey retiring the first 10 batters he faced in the game. The club was hitless and already trailing, 4-0, when Jeff Cirillo singled in the top of the fourth. That first hit was just the first glimpse of the turnaround that was to come. Cuddyer then followed with his eight home run of the season, a breaking ball he deposited into the left-field bullpen. Suddenly, what had looked like a guaranteed 1-5 finish to the road trip changed into a bit of hope. "Cuddy's two-run homer was huge, it cut it in half and let them know, 'Hey, we can do this,' and that got us going," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Guys got excited. Guys were rooting for each other. And that's when big things happen." The Twins had preached throughout their scuffles on this road trip that all they needed was one big hit, and Cuddyer's certainly seemed to be it. Punto then capitalized on the momentum in the fifth inning when he belted his first homer of the season. The three-run shot propelled the Twins to their first lead of the ballgame, and from there the offense didn't stop.
Another run scored in the fifth on a two-out Justin Morneau RBI single. Jason Bartlett added his first home run of the season in the ninth and Cuddyer added yet another RBI to his daily total with a run-scoring single that same inning.It was the kind of offensive output the team needed after so much strife on the trip. The eight runs nearly equaled the team's entire offensive output during the first five games of the road trip (nine runs). "I think guys were starting to get frustrated," catcher Mike Redmond said of the offensive woes. "When you were going as good as we were before heading on the road and you run into a couple buzz saws of pitching, guys get frustrated and get down. It's the nature of the game. "Last night was tough and we could have easily come in feeling sorry for ourselves and let them crush us today. But instead, we went out and battled against a good pitcher and scraped out a win." The team had held a pregame meeting before its final game of the road trip to preach the importance of making it a team game and not an individual one, and the win really did come as a total team effort. The offensive output helped lift Kevin Slowey to his first Major League win. Making just his second career start, the rookie right-hander had managed to put the club in yet another early hole, giving up four runs over his first three innings. Some strong plays by the defense behind him helped make sure that damage didn't extend further over the next few innings. Though Slowey (1-0) gave up one more homer to the only batter he faced in the sixth, it was overall a solid outing -- five-plus innings, 10 hits and four earned runs. "He gave us a good effort," Gardenhire said. "He had a lot of confidence out on the mound. He gave us a chance, and it was sure good to get him his first win."
"They certainly tagged me for their share of hits today, but I kind of stayed clear of any huge problems by avoiding some walks," Slowey said.But even more impressive was the display the bullpen put on once Slowey left the game. Matt Guerrier, Carmen Cali, Pat Neshek and Joe Nathan combined for four scoreless innings while not allowing a hit. Nathan also picked up his 13th save of the season. Now, the club hopes to carry that spark back to the Metrodome. "It's been a rough road trip for us, but to pick up some momentum going into the off-day and Interleague Play was big for us," Cuddyer said. "Now, hopefully we can just sustain that momentum."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.