Several thunderclaps cracked above the Metrodome in the ninth inning Friday night, sending a rumble through the crowd of 31,767. Two innings later, under the roof, it started pouring Angels hits.
The Angels sent 11 men to the plate in the 11th inning, rallying for six runs and six hits in an 11-5 victory over the Minnesota Twins that gave them a major league-leading 34 come-from-behind wins.
The overtime outburst marked the 14th time in the last 23 games the Angels have scored four runs or more in an inning and the sixth time in that span they have scored six runs or more.
Despite missing middle-of-the-order hitters Torii Hunter and Vladimir Guerrero for most of July, the Angels went 19-7 in the month and led the major leagues with a .316 average and 185 runs.
They banged out a season-high 19 hits Friday night, improving their major league-leading average to .288.
“We’ve been doing a lot of things that are exciting on the offensive side,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “But we would also build confidence by getting a lead with early runs, getting good starting pitching and holding the lead.”
Ervin Santana put the Angels in a 5-2 hole with another shaky start, giving up a three-run home run to Joe Mauer in the third and two runs in the fourth on Nick Punto’s run-scoring triple and Denard Span’s RBI double.
But Santana blanked the Twins in the fifth and sixth, and relievers Justin Speier, Jason Bulger, Kevin Jepsen and Darren Oliver combined for five scoreless innings.
Jepsen (3-2) got the win by throwing a scoreless ninth and 10th, retiring the first six batters in the Twins order and striking out three.
“He’s understanding what he needs to do,” third baseman Chone Figgins said of Jepsen, who is emerging as a possible setup man. “It’s not about striking out guys all the time. It’s about getting outs.”
The bullpen’s blanket coverage of the Twins “gave us a chance,” Scioscia said, and the Angels rallied in the seventh, which Reggie Willits opened with a double.
Willits scored on Maicer Izturis’ groundout, and Bobby Abreu hit a solo home run to make it 5-4. Mike Napoli led off the eighth with a solo shot to center, his 16th homer of the season, off reliever Matt Guerrier to tie the score, 5-5.
Erick Aybar opened the 11th with a walk off reliever Bobby Keppel, the Angels’ first walk of the game, and took third on a broken-bat, hit-and-run single to left-center by Gary Matthews Jr.
Howie Kendrick chopped a grounder to the left of shortstop Brendan Harris, who fielded the ball, spun to throw home and lost his footing, falling to the turf. Aybar scored for a 6-5 lead, and Kendrick was safe at first with what was ruled a single.
Figgins beat out a bunt for a single, Izturis lined a single to left-center for a 7-5 lead, Abreu’s two-run single to right made it 9-5, and the Angels tacked on two more on Kendry Morales’ RBI single and Aybar’s fielder’s choice.
“When you have fast runners on base, you can create a lot of havoc,” Figgins said. “We gave up some early runs, but the pitchers kept us within striking distance.”
The comeback took Santana off the hook but did little to allay the team’s concerns about the right-hander, a 2008 All-Star who missed two months this season because of elbow injuries and is now 3-6 with a 7.31 earned-run average in 12 starts.
With Joe Saunders going 3-5 with a 6.31 ERA in his last 14 starts and Jered Weaver compiling a 7.35 ERA in his last eight starts, the Angels have three gaping holes in their rotation.
But combined, that hole wasn’t big or deep enough to compel General Manager Tony Reagins to part with the players it would have taken to acquire Toronto ace Roy Halladay before Friday’s non-waiver trade deadline.
“Tony tried to improve the club, but it’s obvious there was nothing that was going to make us better,” Scioscia said. “Tony made some strong pushes, but the other teams wanted some things that were going to create some bigger holes than we were filling.”