ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — The day after a 1,900-mile flight and a few hours before another 2,400-mile flight, the Minnesota Twins managed to split a doubleheader out in Southern California.
For the team with the worst record in the American League, a split under these circumstances felt like a big win for the Twins.
Miguel Sanó hit a grand slam and José Berríos pitched five solid innings, leading Minnesota over the Los Angeles Angels 6-3 on Thursday night in the second game.
The Angels took the opener 7-1 with a homer and a three-run double from Phil Gosselin.
Trevor Larnach hit his first major league homer and Mitch Garver also homered in Minnesota’s nightcap victory during a makeup doubleheader necessitated by a COVID-19 outbreak among the Twins while they were in Anaheim last month, forcing the postponement of two weekend games.
Last-place Minnesota has lost nine of 12, and the makeup games forced them to fly from Minneapolis to Orange County to Cleveland in a rough two-day span. The Twins had no choice but to embrace a jaunt to the West Coast for 14 innings between two Midwest series.
“At this point, this is some sense of normalcy, just flying by the seat of our pants,” reliever Taylor Rogers said. “Just something we need to do. Be professional about it. Come over here, do your job, get on a plane and do your job tomorrow in Cleveland. The other team doesn’t care if you have to do this. They don’t give you any slack.”
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli watched the second game from a suite while serving a one-game suspension. Minnesota’s dugout was run by Bill Evers, Baldelli’s current bench coach and Angels manager Joe Maddon’s bench coach during two seasons in Tampa Bay.
“It makes the travel a lot easier and a lot more fun,” Evers said of the win.
The Twins also picked up two new injuries in Anaheim. Nelson Cruz was hit on the left wrist by a pitch in the sixth inning of the first game, and he didn’t play in the second game due to a bruised wrist. Jorge Polanco left the nightcap with right ankle soreness, although Evers said it was only precautionary to minimize swelling before the flight.
Jose Rojas hit a leadoff homer in the second game for the Angels, who have lost seven of 10.
Berríos (4-2) yielded three hits with seven strikeouts, remaining unbeaten in five starts over the past month. The Twins improved to 5-4 in his starts, no small feat for a 15-28 team.
Hansel Robles, who struggled mightily as the Angels’ closer in 2020, pitched the seventh for his second save.
Sanó connected for his second career slam in the first inning off shaky Angels starter Griffin Canning (3-3). The Twins jumped on him throughout his two innings, loading the bases twice and coming away with four runs on three hits and four walks.
“He had really good stuff,” Maddon said. “That was his ace’s stuff today. Just got off his fastball in the first inning. They just kept working it, and obviously the grand slam hurt a lot, especially after having all the momentum from winning the first game. We gave the momentum back, and that was the tough part.”
Larnach, a Bay Area native and Minnesota’s first-round pick in the 2018 amateur draft, hit his first homer off José Suárez in the seventh.
Shohei Ohtani struck out three times in the nightcap after the major league homers leader sat out the first game.
Taylor Ward added a two-run homer to Gosselin’s career high-tying four RBIs backing Alex Cobb’s five strong innings in the Angels’ opening victory. Cobb (2-2) yielded a run and four hits in his first start since missing 14 games with a blister, providing a rare positive development for the Angels’ dismal rotation.
“As the game went on, you start to get more of that aggressive nature,” Cobb said. “You just get in the flow of the game and small cues come back to you, and you start feeling a lot better.”
Lewis Thorpe (0-2) yielded five hits, two walks and one earned run over four innings in the first game for the Twins. Los Angeles scored three unearned runs in the second when Gosselin’s bases-clearing double followed third baseman Josh Donaldson’s error.
Baldelli was suspended after reliever Tyler Duffey threw behind the White Sox’s Yermín Mercedes on Tuesday. The Twins apparently were responding to Mercedes’ homer on a 3-0 pitch while Chicago had an 11-run lead a day earlier.
Duffey was given a three-game suspension, but he appealed, which allowed the Angels to pound him for four hits and three runs in the fifth inning of the first game.
Angel Stadium played a tribute video for Andrelton Simmons during the series opener. Simmons spent the past five seasons in Anaheim, winning two Gold Gloves and becoming a fan favorite with his sublime defense on five straight losing teams. Simmons went 0 for 5 for Minnesota in the doubleheader.
Twins: RHP Kenta Maeda, who has a minor groin injury, and the players on Minnesota’s injured list didn’t make the one-day trip to the West Coast. … Byron Buxton (hip) has started doing light running.
Twins: Minnesota hasn’t announced a starter for its series opener in Cleveland on Friday.
Angels: José Quintana (0-3, 8.53 ERA) takes his eighth shot at getting his first win for Los Angeles in Friday’s opener of a weekend series with Oakland.
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