Angels shortstop Erick Aybar, center, is all smiles after driving in Maicer… (Jim Mone / Associated Press )
For seven innings the Angels could do nothing against Minnesota starter Scott Baker, managing only six hits. At that point, in their last 37 innings on the road they had scored just one run.
Then the Twins went to the bullpen and everything changed — much of it on one swing of Erick Aybar's bat.
Aybar hit a three-run home run in the eighth inning, on reliever Dusty Hughes' first pitch, starting the Angels on their way to 6-5 win over the Twins that ended a road losing streak at five games. The Angels got to three Minnesota relievers for two runs each, including losing pitcher Jim Hoey.
"Any time you play baseball, you have seven shutout innings you have to get somebody there to spark you," said Torii Hunter, who had three hits and scored the tying run. "If you don't, it's going to be eight [innings], then nine. Somebody's got to step up. And that's what Aybar did. We saw blood."
The homer was Aybar's third in 15 games — after going the previous 61 games, dating to last season, without one. "I said, 'If I see a good pitch, swing hard,'" he said. "I just tried to hit a line drive. I was trying to hit maybe a double."
Aybar had two hits as the second through fifth spots in the Angels lineup went 10 for 19 with three runs and four runs batted in.
"That's why we came back. Everybody hit," Aybar said. "When we play like we used to play, everybody together, we're a good team. That's what we're trying right now."
On the road again
Russell Branyan has changed teams 10 times in the last six seasons, most recently this month when he was released by the offensively challenged Arizona Diamondbacks and signed by the Angels.
But Manager Mike Scioscia said he doesn't consider the signing much of risk. Last year San Francisco signed Pat Burrell after he had been released by Tampa Bay and claimed Florida's Cody Ross off waivers and both helped take the Giants to a World Series title.
Branyan made his own contribution Friday in his first start as an Angel, driving in the tying run with an eighth-inning sacrifice fly.
"There are guys on every team that maybe aren't a fit in certain situations that are really important to another team," Scioscia said. "It happens every year. The piece that he brings is a piece that we need."
That piece is power. Branyan, who played for Seattle and Cleveland last year and the Mariners in 2009, is one of 11 American League players to hit as least 25 homers in each of those seasons. But he was hitting .210 when Arizona released him last week.
Morales' surgery successful
The Angels said Kendrys Morales' second ankle surgery, performed Thursday, was successful. The team said Dr. Thomas Clanton presided over the three-hour operation in Vail, Colo., cleaning out scar tissue and debris in the joint of the left ankle Morales shattered when celebrating a game-winning home run last May.
A bone graft, relatively common in cases like Morales', also was performed.
"No surprises," Scioscia said of the surgery.
No timetable has been set for Morales' recovery. He will be reevaluated by doctors next week.