ANAHEIM, Calif. – Jim Thome has only 16 career at-bats against Dan Haren — and three home runs. The latest one came after the three-time All-Star held Thome's teammates to one hit over the first seven innings in another dominant performance.
Haren won for the sixth time in his last seven decisions, taking a shutout into the eighth before giving up Thome's 598th career homer, and the Los Angeles Angels beat the Minnesota Twins 7-1 on Thursday night. Rookie Mark Trumbo had a homer and four RBIs in the rubber game of the three-game series.
"What made Haren special tonight is what's made him special for a long time. He attacks the strike zone," Thome said. "He's got a good cutter and his ball moves really late. Fortunately, I got a ball out over the plate that I could handle. But up to that point, he was pitching me really tough. When you've got a horse like that, he's going to put them in a lot of situations to win ballgames. And he's done that."
Thome is on the verge of becoming the eighth player to reach the 600-homer plateau.
The Twins' slugger has 28 home runs against the Angels, including his 500th on Sept. 16, 2007 at Chicago. Now he has a good chance to reach the next milestone at home, when the Twins begin six-game homestand Friday night.
"When you look at those guys in that club, it would be very special, obviously. It would be magical," Thome said of those with 600 homers. "I know it's taken a long time to get though this journey to this point. As you go through it, the process is pretty special. You look back at all the good times and all the struggles. When I got close to 500, it kind of put everything in perspective. Home runs are hard to get. You can't go out every day and think, 'Oh, I'm going to hit a home run,' because it just doesn't work that way."
Haren (12-6) allowed five hits, struck out six and walked none before Scott Downs pitched the ninth. The right-hander allowed fewer than three earned runs for the 15th time in 24 starts this season, and is 8-1 in those games.
Thome's leadoff homer to center field on a 1-2 pitch was the first of four consecutive hits by the Twins, who homered five times in Wednesday night's 11-4 win. But center fielder Peter Bourjos threw out Danny Valencia at the plate as he tried to score on a single by Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Valencia appeared to have the throw beaten, but Jeff Mathis was able to block him off the plate with his foot.
Francisco Liriano (7-9) gave up seven runs and 10 hits in five innings and struck out five. The left-hander faced a lineup made up of right-handed batters — including switch-hitters Maicer Izturis, Alberto Callaspo and Erick Aybar. Liriano is 5-5 with a 4.37 ERA in 14 starts since his no-hitter against the White Sox on May 3 at Chicago.
Liriano gave up a season-high seven runs for the third time. It was the fourth time in his last eight starts that he failed to reach the sixth inning, and only the fourth time this season the Angels scored more than four runs in support of Haren while he was still in the game.
Trumbo, who leads the Angels with 21 homers and 61 RBIs, made it 5-0 in the third with a drive into upper tier of the double-decker bullpen in left field after Liriano walked his first two batters if the inning. Bourjos bunted his way on in the fourth, made it to third on Mathis' dribbler to Liriano at the left of the mound and scored on Izturis' bloop single to right.
Trumbo drove in another run in the fifth with an infield single to make it 7-0. The 25-year-old first baseman has a chance to become the first rookie in Angels history to lead the club in both homers and RBIs at the end of a season. The only rookie to lead them in homers was Tim Salmon, with 31 in 1993. Ken Hunt had a team-high 84 RBIs in their inaugural 1961 season, and Wally Joyner led the way with 100 RBIs in 1986.
"I didn't know what to imagine going into the season," Trumbo said. "I didn't know if I'd be playing up here at all. I could have very easily been in (Triple-A) Salt Lake if things had gone differently. So I'm just fortunate to get the opportunities I've had. What I'd like is to continue to contribute and do my part to help the club. Hopefully I'll stay in somewhat of a groove, because we've got a lot of big series coming up."
The second inning was a frustrating one for Twins second baseman Michael Cuddyer, whose inability to complete a double play led to two two-out runs. He fielded Trumbo's grounder toward the middle, got the force himself on Howie Kendrick and then made a wide throw to first that pulled Joe Mauer off the bag.
Trumbo advanced on a wild pitch and came home on a bloop double to left-center by Bourjos, who scored from second when Cuddyer raced toward the hole to flag down Mathis' infield hit and attempted a difficult off-balance throw to the plate that had no chance against the speedy Bourjos.
Notes: Angels RHP Jered Weaver will start the opener of a three-game set against Seattle on Friday night, awaiting the hearing next week in New York following his appeal of a six-game suspension. ... Twins 1B Justin Morneau is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Rochester on Friday, less than 5½ weeks after undergoing surgery to remove a herniated disk fragment from his neck. ... Downs has not allowed an earned run in 25 1-3 career innings against Minnesota — nor has he given up a run in 21 appearances this season at Angel Stadium spanning 19 innings. ... Angels RHP Joel Pineiro was demoted to the bullpen by manager Mike Scioscia, one day after he was charged with seven runs over 4 1-3 innings. Pineiro, in the final season of a two-year, $16 million contract, has surrendered 22 earned runs, 29 hits and five homers in just 13 1-3 innings over his last four starts — raising his ERA from 3.90 to 5.31. ... Kendrick has not driven in a run in his last 41 at-bats against the Twins since July 31, 2009, when he had a go-ahead RBI single as a pinch-hitter. ... Cuddyer, who hit a grand slam and a solo homer Wednesday, was 0 for 3 with two strikeouts against Haren and has only four hits in 27 career at-bats against him.