Hrbek Homer Powers Twins Past Angels


This time it was a pitch that didn’t sink and a double-play ball that didn’t end in a double play.

Yesterday it was something different, and today will probably bring something new. But one of the worst things you can say about the Angels’ 4-3 loss to Minnesota in the Metrodome on Monday night was that the Angels actually looked better than they did the day before.

Unfortunately for the Angels, the days are running together. Here in a city that is increasingly interested in its burgeoning pennant race, the Angels kept their grip on last place by losing for the 11th time in 12 games, falling 14 games behind the first-place Twins in the American League West.


The Angels have lost 25 games since July 3, when they led the American League West for a day. Their victory last Wednesday is their only one since July 30.

The Twins? They’ve lost only 21 since May 28.

The final blow on Monday was struck by Kent Hrbek, who broke a 3-3 tie in the eighth inning with a 442-foot home run against reliever Chris Beasley.

The count was 3-and-1, with two out.

“I was trying to throw the ball off the plate, away. I was looking to sink it,” Beasley said. “I threw it in his wheelhouse.”

Hrbek, who had been robbed of a home run by Shawn Abner’s catch in the third inning, drove the ball into the upper deck in right-center, to the delight of the crowd of 31,789.

“I knew that one was out when I hit it,” Hrbek said of his 13th homer. “I wasn’t trying to bunt, you know.” Angel Manager Doug Rader said he did not consider walking Hrbek.

“No way in the world we expect that pitch to be made,” Rader said. “No way would we walk Hrbek. What you do is throw the pitch you want to get an out with. I guarantee he was trying to sink the ball away and just didn’t get it.”

It was the final blow of the game for the Angels, who had led twice, 2-0 and 3-2.

Jack Morris (14-9) gave up seven hits in 8 2/3 innings in earning the victory, and Rick Aguilera got the final out for his 31st save. Beasley (0-1) was the loser.

The Angels lost the lead for the final time in the seventh, when the tying run scored as Kirby Puckett beat out a double-play attempt at first.

Puckett, batting .329, came to the plate against reliever Mark Eichhorn with the bases loaded and one out.

Starter Chuck Finley, failing in his second attempt at his 15th victory, had given way to Eichhorn with a runner on first. The Twins loaded the bases on a hit batter, a fielder’s choice bunt and a walk to Chuck Knoblauch.

Puckett hit a slow, high-bouncing grounder toward second, and Luis Sojo fielded it, shoveling the ball to shortstop Dick Schofield at the bag. Knoblauch was forced out, but the Angels needed to get Puckett at first for the double play to prevent the run from scoring. But as Schofield tried to make the pivot with Knoblauch sliding in, Schofield double-pumped. The hesitation let Puckett beat the throw at first, Greg Gagne scoring the tying run.

“I just double-pumped,” Schofield said. “I didn’t have a grip on it.” Sojo called it “a tough play,” but he couldn’t mask his disappointment.

“We had the lead, 3-2, you know,” Sojo said. “It was exciting.”

The Angels took a 2-0 lead for the second day in a row, but for the second day in a row, they let it evaporate.

Dave Parker, whose bat has showed signs of life lately, gave them two runs with a single up the middle in the first.

After the first, the Angels didn’t get another runner there were two out in the fifth, as Morris retired 11 in a row.

That streak--and another, far more impressive one--came to an end when the next batter, Sojo, hit a chopper up the middle. Gagne charged the ball, reached it and threw wildly to first. Sojo was credited with an infield hit, but he took second on the overthrow, which was ruled an error--Gagne’s first in 77 games.

His streak of 76 consecutive errorless games, dating to May 1, was the second longest by a shortstop in American League history, exceeded only by Cal Ripken’s streak of 95 last season.

Finley gave up three hits through the first four innings. He has not had such smooth starts of late. It was the first time since June 9, a span of 11 starts, that he has made it through four innings without giving up a run.

But Finley faltered in the fifth, when Scott Leius doubled down the left-field line with one out and Gagne followed it with a towering home run to left, his seventh of the season.

For the second day in a row, the Angels’ 2-0 lead was gone. On Sunday, Oakland came from behind to beat the Angels, 3-2.

The Angels gave Finley a 3-2 lead before he left with none out and a runner on first in the seventh. He gave up eight hits and was charged with three runs while walking two and striking out two. In his past two starts, he has struck out a total of only two.

The Angels scored the go-ahead run in the seventh. Abner stepped to the plate with two out and hit a fly to right. Shane Mack gave chase, and the ball settled into his glove, only to be thrust back out by the force of his dive. It bounded toward the Angel bullpen on the sideline, ending up amid the pitchers’ chairs as they scrambled to get out of the way. Abner, meanwhile, went to third.

Sojo brought him home with a single up the middle for a 3-2 Angel lead.

Afterward, Rader shook his head and stated what was confoundingly obvious.

“We just need to score more runs, and we’re not doing that,” he said.