Angels leave fans cold
Fans in a sellout crowd of 43,510 in Angel Stadium on Tuesday night set a Guinness Book of World Records mark for number of people wearing fleece blankets, breaking the previous record of 17,758, set by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
To borrow a line from Bill Murray in “Caddyshack,” at least they had that going for them.
Angels pitcher Joe Saunders threw a wet blanket over the proceedings, getting rocked for five runs and eight hits, three of them home runs, in five innings of a 5-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins.
Joe Mauer hit a two-run home run to key a three-run first, and Justin Morneau (third) and J.J. Hardy (fourth) added solo shots for the Twins, who played the final four innings without Manager Ron Gardenhire, who left the game because of flu-like symptoms.
The loss, and especially the first inning, in which he failed to command his two-seam sinking fastball, left Saunders a bit queasy.
“The first couple of innings, there wasn’t any conviction behind it,” Saunders said of his signature pitch. “I was placing it, trying to be too fine, not trusting it. The next thing you know, you’re down 2-0 and 3-1 in the count, and when they know what’s coming, they’re going to hit it hard.”
It appeared Saunders might not make it out of the first when he walked Denard Span to open the game and gave up a two-run homer to Mauer, the reigning American League most valuable player.
Singles by Morneau and Michael Cuddyer and a walk to Jason Kubel loaded the bases for Delmon Young, whose sacrifice fly gave the Twins a 3-0 lead.
Saunders avoided trouble in the second, but Morneau hit a towering homer to right in the third, and Hardy lined a shot over the center-field wall in the fourth to make it 5-1 Minnesota, the Angels having scored in the third on Torii Hunter’s bloop single to center.
“His arm felt good, I felt his velocity was fine, but he had trouble getting the ball down,” Manager Mike Scioscia said of Saunders. “He never got a chance to bring his changeup into the game, and he wasn’t able to repeat his fastball in good zones. He gave up three home runs. When Joe is on, it’s tough to dig out that sinker and drive it.”
A scoreless fifth inning provided at least some solace for Saunders.
“My tempo was way better, I was working quick, throwing strikes and was aggressive in the strike zone,” he said. “That’s what I’m going to repeat in my next outing.”
Hunter made things interesting in the fifth when he followed a walk to Erick Aybar with a two-run home run to right-center against Twins starter Nick Blackburn to pull the Angels to within 5-3.
Hunter also doubled down the left-field line with two out in the seventh, knocking Blackburn out of the game, but left-handed reliever Brian Duensing came on to retire Hideki Matsui on a broken-bat grounder to second.
Matt Guerrier retired the side in order in the eighth, and Twins third base coach Scott Ullger, filling in for Gardenhire, summoned 6-foot-11 right-hander Jon Rauch, the replacement for injured closer Joe Nathan, for the ninth.
Rauch did his best Nathan impersonation, striking out two of three batters he faced for his first save.