Angels’ offense makes a weak first impression

Perhaps the Angels’ offense is not quite as formidable as many thought it would be, or maybe the Minnesota Twins rotation is a little better than most expected.

Though four games is not enough of a sample size to draw any conclusions about the 2010 season, those Angels bats and Twins arms were definitely trending in opposite directions out of the gate.

Kevin Slowey gave up one run and seven hits in 5 1/3 innings, and 39-year-old designated hitter Jim Thome blew open a two-run game with a three-run home run in the eighth to lead Minnesota to a 10-1 victory in Angel Stadium on Thursday night.

In winning three of four games from the Angels, Twins starters Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Carl Pavano and Slowey — not exactly a list of Cy Young Award candidates — went 3-1 with a 3.47 earned-run average, allowing nine runs in 23 1/3 innings.

After a 6-3 victory in Monday night’s season opener, the Angels managed only six runs and 25 hits in the next three games, their 1-3 record their slowest four-game start since they went 0-4 to open the 1992 season.

The Angels went 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position Thursday and are six for 23 with runners in scoring position on the season.

“It’s going to take more than four games to get some offensive continuity, but we all feel good about the potential and the depth of our lineup,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “We’ve had a rough three games with runners in scoring position.

“Even though it was 10-1, it was a close game in the middle innings, their guys kept putting up zeros, and we didn’t get that one hit with runners in scoring position that could have changed things.”

The Twins put a huge dent in the Angels’ bullpen, which had combined for 10 scoreless innings in the first three games.

Thome followed a leadoff walk to Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer’s single in the eighth with a home run to right-center field off reliever Brian Stokes to give Minnesota a 6-1 lead.

The Twins rocked Fernando Rodney for four runs in the ninth, which featured Delmon Young’s three-run homer that made it 10-1.

The late-game outburst obscured a solid Angels debut by Joel Pineiro, the former St. Louis Cardinals right-hander who allowed three runs in six innings. His sinking fastball was so effective that 14 of the 18 outs he recorded came on ground balls, but the Twins bunched three of the five hits they got off him in their three-run fifth.

Thome sparked the rally with a leadoff double, and he lumbered home on Jason Kubel’s single to right-center to tie the game, 1-1.

J.J. Hardy reached on a fielder’s choice, and No. 9 hitter Brendan Harris drove a two-run home run to left to give the Twins a 3-1 lead.

“I left a couple of sinkers up, and when you do that, big league hitters will make you pay for it,” Pineiro said. “I was trying to go down and away to Harris, looking for a ground ball, and I left it up. That one mistake was a big key.”