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Twins Are Finally Giving Tapani Some Offensive Support : Baseball: After leaving him high and dry in a six-game losing streak in April, team scores 39 runs in his past four games.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Minnesota’s Kevin Tapani finished his warmup, got a drink of water then sat down to watch the game.

About that quickly, he had a five-run lead without throwing a pitch.

Tapani was a rookie himself a year ago, but he didn’t cringe or feel any sympathy as he watched Angel starter Joe Grahe’s excruciating opening inning, as the rookie allowed five runs before he recorded an out.

“Not when it’s the opponent,” Tapani said.

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By the time he took the mound, he had all the runs he would need for his ninth victory, as the Twins took the first of three games at Anaheim Stadium, 7-4.

“That makes it all that much easier,” Tapani said. “But it was the first inning, there were still 27 outs to go. In so many big league games, teams score more than five runs.”

Yes, there were 27 outs to go. Tapani got 26 of them to improve his record to 9-7. In allowing four runs, he actually did damage to his earned-run average, which rose from 2.97--the league’s seventh best--to 3.03.

The four runs Monday came on eight hits. He struck out six and didn’t allow a walk.

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His six-game losing streak in April is becoming a distant memory.

He is 7-1 since the beginning of May, the only loss a four-hit, 1-0 decision against Toronto on June 27.

During Tapani’s losing streak, the Twins scored a total of 10 runs in games he started, and five came in one game.

In his past four games, they’ve scored 39.

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On Monday night, Tapani was a strike away from his third complete game of the season and what would have been his second against the Angels this year.

He gave up a run in the first inning on two singles and a groundout, and allowed home runs to former teammate Gary Gaetti and to Dave Winfield.

That was all, until there were two outs in the ninth. On a two-strike pitch to Lance Parrish, Tapani appealed to first base umpire John Shulock, asking if Parrish had gone around on strike three.

The answer was no, and Parrish followed the reprieve with a run-scoring double.

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Manager Tom Kelly decided that was enough, and called for Rick Aguilera, who was another part of the seven-player deal that brought Tapani to the Twins from the Mets in 1989 for Frank Viola.

Aguilera has been a fine addition, too, and is tied with Dennis Eckersley of the Athletics for the American League in saves with 29.

Aguilera came in and finished up: one pitch to Dave Gallagher, for a line-drive out and the save.

Tapani is well on his way in a career that began with a quirk; he didn’t play high school baseball. They didn’t have it at his high school in Michigan’s upper peninsula. It snows till April.

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He did play hockey and football, and was a walk-on with the baseball team at Central Michigan. He was good enough to be Oakland’s second pick in the 1986 draft, a good sign.

He has become a model of efficiency, a quick worker who averages slightly more than seven innings a start, and has walked only 22 batters all season.

After going 12-8 last year, he opened this season 2-0. Then came the slide, when the Twins left him high and dry too many times.

The Twins, thriving in first place in the American League West, didn’t do it Monday.

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