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Updated: September 4th, 2011 5:02pm
Twins Daily: Mauer homers, but Twins unable to solve Pineiro in loss

Twins Daily: Mauer homers, but Twins unable to solve Pineiro in loss

by Phil Mackey
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Designated hitter Joe Mauer homered after missing two games with an upper respiratory infection, but the rest of the Minnesota Twins' offense went silent in a 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday.

The skinny

Aside from a rare home run by Mauer, the Twins' offense came up empty against sinkerballer Joel Pineiro on Sunday.

Pineiro allowed only one earned run on five hits and a walk in seven innings. He struck out one and threw 90 pitches, out-dueling his counterpart Kevin Slowey, who allowed two earned runs on seven hits in seven innings.

Mauer's blast pulled the Twins within a run, 2-1, in the fourth inning. It was just the second home run of the season for Mauer, who has not caught since Aug. 20 due to neck soreness and the respiratory infection.

A home run by Bobby Abreu put the Angels on the board in the bottom of the first inning, and a mental error by Trevor Plouffe gave the Angels another run in the bottom of the third.

The Angels added insurance runs off Alex Burnett and Jim Hoey in the bottom of the eighth inning on RBI singles by Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells.

Turning point

The Angels tacked on extra runs in the eight, but the aforementioned mental gaffe by Plouffe wound up leading to the decisive run.

With the Angels already leading 1-0, Hank Conger singled with one out in the bottom of the third inning, then moved to third base after Erick Aybar singled as well.

The next batter, Howie Kendrick, hit a grounder to third baseman Danny Valencia, who turned and fired to second baseman Plouffe.

Plouffe stepped on the bag, then started trotting toward the dugout before he realized there were only two outs. Had Plouffe turned and thrown to first, it's likely the Twins would have completed an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play.

Instead, Conger scored from third to put the Angels up 2-0.

Numbers game

.667: Mauer's career batting average in 24 at-bats against Pineiro after going 1-for-2 with a walk against the righty on Sunday.

4: Extra-base hits for Plouffe during the six-game road trip.

5: Extra-base hits for Tsuyoshi Nishioka all season.

Health report

• LHP Brian Duensing strained his oblique in Friday night's game, leaving the Twins scrambling for pitching options this week.

• RHP Nick Blackburn (forearm soreness) had hoped to return before the end of the season, but due to roster issues the Twins were forced to place the sinkerballer on the 60-day disabled list to make room on the 40-man.

• 1B Justin Morneau remains sidelined while dealing with mild concussion symptoms. "It hasn't gotten really a lot better," manager Ron Gardenhire said in an interview with 1500 ESPN on Sunday. "Saturday was his best day." Morneau will get out and do some swinging when the Twins return home Monday, and he will likely DH the rest of the season when he's able to return, "to stay way from anything violent out there, diving for balls and stuff."

• OF Denard Span (migraine symptoms) remains sidelined with no return date in sight. "When we were at home I thought we were getting there, but all of the sudden (he was) having some issues and we backed away," Gardenhire told 1500 ESPN. "He's at the ballpark working out. They talk about him maybe taking some BP and stuff like that, but they say he's still kind of hesitant about getting out there and doing too much. So I'm definitely concerned. We were hoping that we could get him back out on the field before the end of the season, and get him running around, and let him get in a little action at least so we can get a little bit of a better idea of what we've got going into the offseason."

On deck

With four starting pitchers sidelined, the Twins announced Sunday that reinforcements will arrive in time for Monday's doubleheader with the Chicago White Sox.

Right-hander Anthony Swarzak (3-5, 4.14) will face right-hander Philip Humber (8-8, 3.63) in Game 1 (1:10 p.m., 1500 ESPN), followed by left-hander Scott Diamond (1-2, 4.82) and right-hander Zach Stewart (1-3, 5.48) in the nightcap (7:10 p.m., 1500 ESPN).

After going 31-8 against the White Sox dating back to May of 2010, the Twins have now lost five of their last six to the Southsiders.

Coming up

• Tuesday: vs. White Sox, 7:10 p.m. RHP Carl Pavano (7-11, 4.60) vs. RHP Jake Peavy (6-7, 5.21)
• Wednesday: vs. White Sox, 7:10 p.m. TBD vs. LHP John Danks (6-10, 4.01)
• Thursday: Off day

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