Angel pitcher Mark Langston appeared well on his way to ending a weeks-long slump Tuesday night, but then came Kirby Puckett and Brian Harper of the Minnesota Twins to spoil things.
Langston entered the ninth inning at Minneapolis with a three-hit shutout bid, but gave up a game-tying hit to Puckett. Harper’s two-out single then capped a two-run rally that gave the Twins a 2-1 victory.
“I threw the ball well,” said Langston (15-11), who lost his fifth consecutive decision. “It’s almost more frustrating to lose one like this than it is to get hit hard. This was a very difficult loss right here when you have the game pretty much right there and it gets away. I made my pitches, it just wasn’t meant to be.”
It was the fourth time in 88 games that the Twins rallied to win despite trailing after eight innings. They have won four in a row and are one game behind the Angels for fifth place in the American League West.
Harper’s hit fell just beyond the grasp of center fielder Chad Curtis to score Puckett from second base. Puckett’s single scored Chuck Knoblauch, who walked.
“Two or three of the balls they hit in the ninth we normally field with ease,” Angel Manager Buck Rodgers said, referring to a misplay by third baseman Rene Gonzales and an error by first baseman J.T. Snow. “Then Harper doesn’t get up, and the whole thing is different. We were playing Harper to right-center where he’d been hitting the ball all night. He hit it far enough to left-center that it just fell in.”
Kevin Tapani (11-15) gave up eight hits and one walk in his third complete game of the year.
Langston struck out five to bring his career total to 1,993. He’s scheduled to start Sunday at Oakland and will try to become the 44th pitcher in major league history to get 2,000 strikeouts. His last victory was Sept. 3 against Toronto, and the Angels have scored only seven runs in the five losses.
The Angels scored in the first inning against the Twins as Luis Polonia singled, stole second and came home on Curtis’ double to right field. Polonia’s run was the 500th of his career. Polonia stole second base in the first inning and again in the fifth for a career-high 55.