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Updated: April 12th, 2012 3:54pm
Justin Morneau's first home run since May 31 lifts Twins over Angels

Justin Morneau's first home run since May 31 lifts Twins over Angels

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Home runs by Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer propelled the Minnesota Twins to a 10-9 win and series victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday at Target Field.

The skinny

A poor outing by Francisco Liriano put the Twins in a 6-0 hole early, but for the second straight game the offense came alive late.

Morneau's home run off right-hander Rich Thompson in the bottom of the eighth inning -- scoring Mauer -- put the Twins up 8-7, and it was his first blast in a regular season game since May 31.

"It felt good," Morneau said, sporting a massive grin.

"I had had some opportunities early in the game, and that's why this game's so great -- you get another opportunity, another chance, and I was lucky enough to take advantage."

To be exact, Morneau left seven runners on base, including a bases-loaded pop-up that induced a few boo birds earlier in the game.

He clearly made up for it.

"Right after he swung at that ball over his head (on the first pitch), I looked at Joe Vavra and said, 'He's trying to hit an eight-run homer here, and we only need two,'" manager Ron Gardenhire said. "And I think the next pitch he crushed it, and I said, 'We'll take that one.' So that was a nice feeling, to watch him put a really nice swing on the ball."

Mauer heard boos after a bases-loaded, third-inning pop-out, but he answered with a three-run home run to right field in the bottom of the fifth, cutting the Angels' lead to 6-3.

Thursday marked the first time Mauer and Morneau have hit home runs in the same game since July 6, 2010.

"We've done it before," Morneau said. "But, yeah, they were both big times in the ballgame. We were down 6-nothing when Joe hit his, and that kind of got us going, got us back in the game."

Liriano was undone by a five-run second inning that included a little bit of everything from the Angels offense -- a home run by Mike Trumbo, an RBI double by Peter Bourjos, a two-RBI single by Maicer Izturis, a walk and three stolen bases.

When the inning finally ended, the Angels led 5-0.

Liriano settled down enough to finish five innings, allowing six runs (five earned) on seven hits and three walks while striking out two.

After Morneau's homer, Valencia added an RBI double and Luke Hughes an RBI single to give Matt Capps a three-run cushion -- one that he would need, because Trumbo delivered an RBI single and Alberto Callaspo an RBI groundout to cut the lead to 10-9.

"It was a great character win," Morneau said. "I think it was a great sign of character for this team, showing when we get down we're not out of it, and the way Willingham's swinging the bat, that helps, too. This is a different group of guys; it's a group that expects to play all nine innings and play hard and try and win ballgame. Hopefully you get a victory like this and it carries over."

Turning point

The Twins squandered an opportunity to cut into the Angels' three-run lead earlier in the game when Morneau flew out with the bases loaded to end the sixth inning.

But Josh Willingham re-ignited things in the bottom of the seventh with a towering, leadoff home run into the shrubs in left field -- his fourth of the young season and third in as many games at Target Field. Chris Parmelee followed with a double, Valencia a single, and two batters later pinch hitter Hughes made it 6-5 with a sac fly to deep left-center.

All of this led intthe key play of the Twins' initial comeback.

With two outs and Valencia standing on third base, the batter, Denard Span, chopped one between the mound and first base. Albert Pujols fielded and tossed to the pitcher, Scott Downs, who arrived at the base at the exact same time as Span, but Span's foot came down on the back of Downs' heel, rolling Downs' ankle. The ball popped out of Downs' glove, allowing Span to reach safely and Valencia to score the tying run.

"The play happened so fast," Span said. "I didn't know as I was running down the first base line that his foot was there. I realized it once I made contact with his body, and I kind of spun off of him, but I knew it just didn't feel good, stepping on that part of his body. I knew it was bad. I was thankful to see him get up and put a little pressure on it. ...

"I asked him if he was OK, and he looked at me and nodded. ... That made me feel a little bit better, because that's the last thing I'm trying to do is hurt anybody, especially after being hurt all last year."

The 6-6 tie lasted briefly. A wild pitch by Brian Duensing allowed Vernon Wells to move from first base to second base with two outs in the top of the eighth inning. Shortly after, Peter Bourjos delivered an RBI single to put the Angels up 7-6.

The Twins throttled down again with Morneau's homer.

Numbers game

12: Career four-hit games for Span.

264: Days since Mauer last caught a day game after a night game (July 23, 2011) until Thursday. That game was a 3:10 p.m. start time. The last time he caught a noon or 1:10 game after a night game was July 4.

38: Pitches thrown by Liriano in a five-run second inning.

2: Home runs for Mauer at Target Field. Ever.

5: Stolen bases by the Angels off Mauer and Liriano.

9: Right-handed batters used by the Angels against Liriano.

20: Hits for the Twins, including three each by Mauer, Willingham and Valencia. Everyone who batted tallied at least one hit for the Twins.

Health report

• RHP Kyle Waldrop has thrown from 90 feet and 120 feet the last two days, and he will throw a bullpen session this weekend to test out his elbow. Waldrop was diagnosed in March with a strained UCL, which is Tommy John surgery territory if not taken care of properly.

Overheard

"I didn't ask."
-- Gardenhire, when asked if catching a day game after a night game is a good sign for Mauer's health.

"If I get 65 of them this year and every one of them is like that, I'll be happy."
-- Capps, after converting an adventurous save that included a grounder bouncing off second base for an infield single, and a blown call by the first-base umpire to extend the rally.

On deck

Friday: vs. Rangers, 7:10 p.m. RHP Anthony Swarzak (0-1, 1.80) vs. LHP Matt Harrison (1-0, 0.00).
Saturday: vs. Rangers, 12:10 p.m. RHP Nick Blackburn (0-1, 7.50) vs. RHP Yu Darvish (1-0, 7.94).
Sunday: vs. Rangers, 1:10 p.m. RHP Liam Hendriks (0-0, 0.00) vs. RHP Neftali Feliz (1-0, 0.00).

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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