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Defense hurts Twins in loss to Angels

May 30, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS — Some games this year, it’s been the Twins offense. In others, the pitching has been to blame. In their series finale with the Angels on Sunday, defense was the problem.

Only two errors went down in the box score, on throws by Danny Valencia and Trevor Plouffe in the third inning, but defensive miscues seemed to come far too often as the Twins lost to the Angels, 6-5, at Target Field.

Plouffe opened the third inning with a throw that got past Justin Morneau at first base, but it was ruled an infield single for Mark Trumbo. Two batters later, Valencia also threw one past Morneau, which went down as another single. Valencia was credited for the error when the runner advanced to third base.

Capping things off was Plouffe, who sailed a throw past first base with two outs, allowing the run to score from third for the Angels’ third run of the inning.

“I sailed ’em,” Plouffe said of the throws. “That’s all that is.”

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has been on Plouffe about his defense, and Sunday’s performance was not exactly what he had in mind.

Earlier in the week, Plouffe misplayed a couple balls in the infield by not being aggressive and getting to them quickly enough, allowing the runners to beat his throws. On his poor throws Sunday, Plouffe also seemed to lack some aggression, appearing tentative as he tossed the ball over to first.

“It kind of looked like he didn’t let ’em fly, just kind of lobbed ’em over there,” Gardenhire said. “That’s what we’re talking about. Be aggressive.

“We worked really hard at it yesterday and he did a good job throwing the ball.”

Gardenhire talked before the game about how Plouffe had been unhappy the other day after having to answer questions from a number of reporters about his defensive struggles. It motivated Plouffe to work on his play at shortstop, leading him to put in extra work.

Whatever the problem is, the work Plouffe is putting in, and the focus he’s put on being aggressive have not translated into positive results on the field.

“I’ve got to look at some video, see what I’m doing, and make an adjustment,” Plouffe said. “That’s all I can do. I can’t go back in time and fix anything right now. Just move forward.”

One tough defensive inning behind him was enough to keep Carl Pavano in pursuit of his 100th career win for at least one more start. Pavano battled well against Angels starter Dan Haren, but the three-run third inning was the difference.

Making his sixth attempt at getting that elusive career mark, Pavano remained winless for the month of May. He went eight innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on 10 hits. Pavano struck out three batters and did not allow a walk.

While the third inning was tough, Pavano was bothered most by the run he allowed in the fifth, which made it a two-run game when Jeff Mathis scored on an Erick Aybar single.

“The thing that stands out the most for me is allowing [Mathis] to get a walking lead and steal second,” Pavano said. “That run right there really makes it a tight ball game, it changes the order, how the order comes up. I gave him no credit at all and he ends up stealing that bag and scoring on a bloop to center.”

Haren did not appear to have his best stuff against the Twins, giving up three runs on 10 hits and exiting after six innings with just two strikeouts.

But he still picked up the win, as the Angels offense picked him up.

“I didn’t really have any out pitches,” Haren said. “I needed runs today. I didn’t have much.”

A three-hit game for Denard Span highlighted the Twins offensive output. Span scored after doubling in the first, drove in Plouffe with his seventh-inning double, singled home Matt Tolbert to spark a ninth-inning rally and later scored on Justin Morneau’s single to bring the Twins within a run.

The Twins’ ninth-inning rally came up short, as they plated a pair of runs on two singles and two walks. Right fielder Michael Cuddyer drove a ball deep to center field, but Peter Bourjos was right there to make the out to end the game.

While they came up short and dropped to 17-34 overall with a 6-15 home record, the Twins were encouraged by the late rally after a tough game.

“We kept fighting,” Cuddyer said. “We never gave up, and we haven’t given up yet. We’ve got to keep playing hard.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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