Angels' offense cooked by Twins' Baker

Angels' offense cooked by Twins' Baker

MINNEAPOLIS -- Having showered and dressed for a flight west, Jered Weaver pulled together his finest Johnny Cash look: black slacks, black shirt.

It fit his mood as well as his slender physique.

"We fell behind," the Angels' ace said. "You have to nit-pick. I tried to battle as much as I can. They got me for four [runs], and we lost."

A taut duel between Weaver and the Twins' Scott Baker turned Minnesota's way in the fifth inning when Danny Valencia's solo homer and Michael Cuddyer's two-out, two-strike, three-run double carried the Twins to 4-0 decision at Target Field.

Having fouled off three fastballs and two sliders, Cuddyer smacked a slider into the left-center gap, and the Twins were on their way to claiming the weekend series and, by five games to two, the season series.

"I hung a slider," Weaver said, "and he hit it where it should have been hit. He cleared the bases. I tried to do everything to get him out."

Well, maybe not everything. Cuddyer had a novel idea that certainly didn't occur to Weaver and catcher Jeff Mathis.

"At 1-2," Cuddyer said of the count, "I was fighting. He probably could have rolled it up there and I'd have swung at it."

The Angels fell back to eight games behind American League West-leading Texas, which won in Baltimore. The Angels have 37 games left, while the Rangers have 39. The two clubs meet seven more times.

Weaver made it through six innings, but fell to 11-9 with his second loss on the trip. He gave up six hits and four walks, striking out three hitters.

Since a 12-0 blowout of the Cubs on June 19 behind their ace, the Angels have not produced more than four runs in any of Weaver's 12 outings, averaging 2.1 runs per game. He's 4-6 in that stretch.

"It's not a good feeling, for sure," Weaver said.

Baker blanked the Angels through seven innings on five hits and two walks, striking out four, to move to 11-9.

"He was mixing it up," Mathis said of the Twins right-hander. "He was in and out, up and down. He kept us off balance."

Weaver's competitive instincts and command under fire got him through jams in the first two innings, leaving two stranded each time. He sailed into the fifth when Valencia wheeled on a first-pitch fastball, got extended and drove it an estimated 426 feet into the second deck in left-center.

Orlando Hudson's two-out triple and walks to Joe Mauer and Jason Kubel loaded the bases for Cuddyer after Valencia's blast. On a 1-2 count, Cuddyer fouled off five pitches before lashing a line drive that found open space and cleared the bases before he was tagged out in a rundown.

"That was a battle," Mathis said. "Weav had a good heater tonight. We were trying to get him to chase with the slider, and he kept spoiling good pitches. He got one up in the zone and he hit it."

One wayward pitch, it seems, is all it takes to ruin Weaver's day.

"Weav put up some zeros, for sure," manager Mike Scioscia said. "If they don't pitch with their backs against the wall, positive things will happen."

Scioscia referred to Saturday, when the offense, with power and movement on the bases, generated nine runs.

"We need games like that," he said. "We played well, pressured them. Today, it was like that valve got turned off."

The Angels squandered Hideki Matsui's leadoff double into the right-field corner in the second. Erick Aybar fouled out on a bunt, Mike Napoli struck out and Jeff Mathis grounded out, taking Baker off the hook.

Two-out singles by Matsui and Aybar were wasted when Napoli flied to center to end the fourth.

Jesse Crain relieved Baker in the eighth, yielding a two-out single to Alberto Callaspo and a walk to Torii Hunter. Matsui struck out on the eighth pitch of an intense duel with the Twins right-hander.

After Scot Shields worked a perfect seventh, the Angels got a look at one of their young power arms -- and the kid left a strong impression.

Summoned from Triple-A Salt Lake earlier in the day, right-hander Jordan Walden faced two potential Hall of Famers in his Major League debut.

"I was so nervous," Walden said. "I was pitching on adrenaline."

He walked Mauer, hitting 99 mph four times on the radar gun, and struck out Cuddyer and Jim Thome on three pitches each. Walden left runners at the corners by retiring Delmon Young on a groundout.

"It dawned on me when I saw Joe Mauer," Walden said. "I had to tell myself to take some deep breaths. I finally settled down."

Every fastball he threw hit 98 or 99, not that he knew.

"I was just letting it go," Walden said. "It felt real good to get a clean [scoreless] inning in."

The man who counts most was duly impressed.

"I thought he handled himself very well," Scioscia said. "He definitely made pitches. First and third, he struck out Cuddyer and Thome on six pitches. We're excited, where he can help us now. Any time you get a chance to develop a power arm, that's very important."

The Twins improved their AL Central lead to five games over the White Sox and continued to dominate the AL West, going 17-6. Not since 2002 had they taken a season series from the Angels.

The Angels return home for three games against the Rays and then three with the Orioles.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.