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Twins bats come alive, batter Angels

By Joe Christensen, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) –

MINNEAPOLIS — Twins newcomer Ryan Doumit was searching for the right word Monday after the team fell to 0-4 while scoring a whopping six runs in the process.

(PHOTO: The Minnesota Twins’ Joe Mauer hits a three-run home run in the fifth inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Target Field, on Thursday, April 12, 2012, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Twins hung on for a 10-9 win.)

“Don’t wake up the sleeping … dragon,” Doumit said. “Because once that happens, hitting’s contagious.”

By Thursday afternoon, the mythical reptile in Doumit’s imagination had sprung to life, breathing fire, as the Twins erased a six-run deficit with home runs by Joe Mauer, Josh Willingham and Justin Morneau and held on for a 10-9 victory at Target Field.

After looking flat as can be last weekend in Baltimore and in Monday’s home opener, the Twins wound up taking two of three from an Angels team that was a trendy pick to reach the World Series this spring.

Francisco Liriano had another troubling start and closer Matt Capps turned a three-run, ninth-inning lead into a high-wire act, but the Twins had enough offense to overcome all of it. They had 20 hits; last year, their season high was 16.

“We were having fun in the dugout,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “A lot of laughing, a lot of smiling, a lot of nervousness. But that’s what makes baseball fun right there.”

The Angels scored five runs off Liriano in the second inning and added another in the fifth to make it 6-0, and by then the announced crowd of 31,782 was downright surly. Mauer and Morneau both heard boos in the third inning after fruitless at-bats with the bases loaded.

Mauer was really hearing it. He was catching as the Angels stole five bases, and even though Liriano’s slow delivery made it easy for those baserunners. Mauer had one good chance to throw Howie Kendrick out and bounced his throw into center field in the top of the second. It was part of a double steal that resulted in Maicer Izturis scoring.

But with one sweet left-handed swing, Mauer jarred that dragon awake. His three-run homer off Angels starter Dan Haren trimmed the lead to 6-3 in the fifth inning. It was Mauer’s second career homer at Target Field and the first one he’s pulled to right field.

“I know a lot of the fans are still frustrated by last season,” Mauer said, when asked about the boos. “But this is a new ballclub and a new team, and we’re going to fight until that 27th out is recorded.”

Willingham trimmed the lead to 6-4 in the seventh with his fourth home run in six games, and the Twins tied it later that inning when Denard Span legged out a two-out RBI single — his fourth hit of the day.

The Angels regained the lead in the eighth, but Mauer lined a single to right field that inning, and Morneau followed with a two-run homer onto the second-deck walkway in right field.

Danny Valencia and Luke Hughes then each added an RBI hit, and the Twins were glad they added those insurance runs because the Angels caught a big break in the ninth. Mark Trumbo had a potential double-play grounder that bounced off second base for a hit.

It was 10-8, with no outs and runners at first and third, but Capps got three groundouts to end the game, stranding the tying run on second.

“If I get 65 (saves) this year and every one of them is like that, I’ll be happy,” Capps said.

The whole team will be happy if it keeps getting this production from Mauer and Morneau. This was the first time they both homered in the same game since July 6, 2010, one day before Morneau suffered a season-ending concussion in Toronto.

“It’s going to be a fun year with both those guys healthy,” Capps said. “Then you throw guys in the mix like Jamey (Carroll) that can set the table, and you’ve got Denard healthy and Willingham, who makes this ballpark look small — it could be a fun year.”

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