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Power surge carries Angels past Twins

Angels win for the 11th time in the last 12 games thanks to a trio of home runs.

July 25, 2009|BEN BOLCH

This was hardly the "A" team, not with names such as Quinlan and Wood and Matthews stretched across the backs of their jerseys.

Somehow the Angels don't need stars to win these days, just talent, and they appear to have a roster brimming with it.

No Vladimir Guerrero? No Torii Hunter? No Juan Rivera?

No problem.

Seldom-used utilityman Robb Quinlan hit a two-run homer and Mike Napoli, playing designated hitter in the absence of the injured Guerrero, had a three-run shot to lift the Angels to a 6-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Friday night at Angel Stadium.

John Lackey capitalized on the power surge, pitching 7 2/3 strong innings to help the Angels win their seventh consecutive game and maintain a 3 1/2 -game lead over Texas in the American League West.

"Everyone's picked it up a step or two and it's been a fun ride," said Quinlan, who has hit both of his homers this season in the last four days.

It was an increasingly unconventional triumph for the Angels in that it did not require a rally.

Comeback victories have become the norm for this team; 10 of the Angels' previous 13 wins and each of their last seven home victories before Friday had been in come-from-behind fashion.

On Thursday, the Angels struck for two ninth-inning runs against All-Star closer Joe Nathan, something that Angels Manager Mike Scioscia noted happens "about as often as you go 65 mph on the 101" Freeway. Napoli drove in the winning run in the 10th inning with a two-out double.

There was no need for late heroics one night later. Quinlan's two-run homer in the second inning off Minnesota starter Francisco Liriano (4-10) and Jeff Mathis' solo shot in the fifth provided an advantage that Napoli augmented with his sixth-inning homer.

"It was nice to get out in front and keep a lead," Napoli said.

Joe Mauer proved to be the only bugaboo for Lackey (6-4), hitting solo homers in the fourth and sixth innings. The right-hander gave up two runs and four hits in his third consecutive impressive outing, which helped his earned-run average dip to a season-low 4.22.

"The last couple of times his stuff has been as good as it's ever been," Scioscia said. "This is as good as John's thrown the ball his whole career."

Lackey tipped his cap as he walked off the mound to a standing ovation after giving up Denard Span's two-out single in the eighth with Mauer on deck.

"I definitely wanted to get another run at him, especially with a four-run lead," Lackey said. "I didn't want him to get the last say, I guess."

Reliever Kevin Jepsen retired Mauer on a groundout before giving up a meaningless run during a ninth inning in which he struck out the side.

Quinlan and Brandon Wood each found his name in the lineup in part because they are right-handed hitters and the Twins started Liriano, a left-hander. Gary Matthews Jr. has been playing every day since Guerrero and Hunter went on the disabled list this month.

"We're getting contributions from everyone, which is helping to deepen our team," Scioscia said.

Might a surge in which the Angels have won 11 of 12 games lessen the burden on General Manager Tony Reagins to make a move before the non-waiver trading deadline that looms in six days?

"Winning kind of cures everything," Lackey said. "When you're winning you don't look around too much and you don't look at the flaws you might have."


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