Angels go quietly in 8-1 loss to Twins, fall 2-1/2 back in wild-card race

Angels pinch hitter Matt Joyce heads back to the dugout after striking out in the eighth inning of an 8-1 loss to the Twins.

Angels pinch hitter Matt Joyce heads back to the dugout after striking out in the eighth inning of an 8-1 loss to the Twins.

(Richard Marshall / Associated Press)

The Angels could not solve Minnesota Twins rookie Tyler Duffey on Sunday, and as a result their pursuit of a playoff spot got a little more complicated.

Duffey gave up three hits and struck out seven in seven shutout innings to lead the Twins to an 8-1 victory at Target Field, dropping the Angels 2-1/2 games behind Houston for the second American League wild-card spot with 13 games left. Minnesota is also 2-1/2 games back.

The Angels open a crucial three-game series at Houston on Monday night. The Astros swept a three-game series from the Angels at home in late July and appear to have recovered from a five-game losing streak with a back-to-back wins over Oakland on Saturday and Sunday.

If the Angels are to challenge the Astros, they’ll need much more from an offense that did not advance a runner into scoring position until the eighth inning Sunday, after Duffey, a right-hander who was a fifth-round pick out of Rice University in 2012, left the game. Their only run came on Jett Bandy’s solo homer in the ninth, Bandy’s first major league hit.


And they’ll need better pitching than what Matt Shoemaker provided Sunday. The right-hander was not sharp in his return from a forearm strain that sidelined him for two weeks, lasting only 3 2/3 innings in which he gave up four earned runs and six hits, struck out one and walked two.

Shoemaker, who rebounded from a brief demotion to triple-A to surrender only one run and six hits in 14-1/3 innings during wins over Detroit (Aug. 27) and Oakland (Sept. 1), gave up a solo homer to Torii Hunter, the former Angels outfielder, in the second.

Aaron Hicks singled to lead off the third, and Eddie Rosario crushed a two-run homer to right-center to give the Twins a 3-0 lead. Eduardo Nunez singled with two outs in the fourth, stole second and scored on Hicks’ RBI single to center to make it 4-0, and that was it for Shoemaker, who was replaced by Cesar Ramos.

The Twins tacked on two runs in the fifth on bases-loaded walks by Angels relievers Cam Bedrosian and Cory Rasmus, and Joe Mauer blasted a two-run homer to right-center off reliever Wesley Wright in the eighth.

The Angels’ only threat came when they loaded the bases off reliever Casey Fien in the eighth inning on singles by Carlos Perez, Erick Aybar and Mike Trout. But Albert Pujols, who delivered a clutch two-run double in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader sweep, popped out to shortstop to end the inning.