Reporting from Minneapolis —
While Jered Weaver has walked a tightrope for weeks, a lack of run support giving the right-hander virtually no margin for error, the Angels as a team are running on a treadmill.
Their legs are moving, but they're going nowhere.
They lost to Minnesota, 4-0, Sunday night in Target Field, the Twins scoring their runs in the fifth inning, as Danny Valencia led off with a home run and Michael Cuddyer fought off five two-strike pitches before lining a two-out, three-run double to left-center field.
After going 2-4 in Boston and Minnesota, the Angels are eight games behind the first-place Texas Rangers in the American League West. That's the same deficit they had when they left on the trip.
Given a window of opportunity by the Rangers, who have lost seven of 11 games, the Angels have not stormed through. The closest they have come to Texas since July 25 is seven games.
"We're not winning games," Weaver said. "That's not going to get us back into the hunt."
Weaver was particularly ornery Sunday night, but it was hard to tell whether it was because some close calls in the fifth inning didn't go his way or that the offense goes limp every time he takes the mound.
The Angels have scored 22 runs in Weaver's last 11 starts, scoring two runs or fewer in eight of those games, and they were shut out in both of Weaver's starts on this trip, dropping a 6-0 decision at Boston on Tuesday night.
"I fell behind these guys, I had to nitpick to get back into the count and worry about giving up a home run and that could be the end of the game," Weaver said. "It's not a good feeling, for sure."
After Valencia's homer, Orlando Hudson hit a two-out triple and Weaver walked Joe Mauer and Jason Kubel. He got ahead of Cuddyer, 1 and 2, but could not put the Twins first baseman away.
"At 1-2 I was just fighting up there," Cuddyer said. "He probably could have rolled it up there, and I would have swung at it."
Instead, Weaver hung a slider that Cuddyer "hit where it should have been hit," Weaver said. "He hit a triple, he cleared the bases, we lost the game, four to zero. You guys saw the same game I did."
Right-hander Scott Baker, who was 0-5 with a 5.82 earned-run average in eight career starts against the Angels, gave up five hits in seven innings to improve to 11-9. Weaver fell to 11-9.
One day after the Angels amassed 16 hits in a 9-3 win over the Twins, they were shut out for the third time in nine games.
"We need to play more games like [Saturday], when we got a lot of things going and pressured them," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "Tonight, it was like that valve got turned off."
The mood in the clubhouse was grim, but there was one new Angel with a grin.
Jordan Walden, a 22-year-old right-hander who was called up from triple-A Salt Lake when the Angels put infielder Maicer Izturis on the disabled list, had a memorable big league debut.
After walking Mauer and giving up a single to Kubel in the eighth inning, Walden, sporting a fastball that hit 99 mph, struck out Cuddyer (with a 98-mph fastball) and Jim Thome (with an 82-mph slider) on three pitches each and got Delmon Young to ground out.
"I was so nervous I had to keep telling myself to breath, breath," Walden said. "I was finally able to settle down and pitch."
Scioscia said Walden's promotion had plenty to do with the 22-year-old reliever's sizzling fastball and nothing to do with the Angels giving up on this season and building for the future.
Walden spent the first four months of 2009 at double-A Arkansas and only three weeks at Salt Lake before joining the Angels.
"We're making moves that we feel are going to help us now and in the future," Scioscia said. "If we feel a guy can help us now, there will be a role for him. We're not looking past today's game. Jordan has the potential to be a dynamic player."
The 6-foot-5, 220-pound right-hander showed a dynamic fastball Sunday night.
"He's firm," Scioscia said. "Any time you get a chance to develop a power arm that can help you, that's important."
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