MINNEAPOLIS – Justin Morneau hit a two-run, go-ahead homer in the eighth inning and the Minnesota Twins rallied from six runs down to beat the Los Angeles Angels 10-9 on Thursday.
Joe Mauer went deep, too, hitting a three-run shot off Dan Haren in the fifth that cut into a 6-0 lead the Angels built against Francisco Liriano. Every Twins batter had at least one of the team's 20 hits, enough to make up for the 14 men left on base, including eight in scoring position.
Denard Span had four hits, including an infield single that tied it at 6 in the seventh inning. On the play, he reached first at the same time as Scott Downs, stomping down on top of the reliever's foot with his cleat. Downs right ankle rolled awkwardly and he left the game what the team called a bruise.
Peter Bourjos' RBI single off Brian Duensing, whose wild pitch let Vernon Wells take second, put the Angels in front again in the eighth — for a few minutes. Mauer singled off Rich Thompson (0-1), and Morneau followed with his first home run of the season. He had left seven runners on before that. The Twins tacked on two more runs, and the drama didn't stop there.
Jeff Gray (2-0) picked up the victory, and Matt Capps notched his second save despite giving the Angels two runs back.
Albert Pujols, 5 for 23 with his new team, singled to start the ninth and reached third when Torii Hunter's possible double-play ball skipped off second base for a fluke single. Mark Trumbo cut the lead to two with an RBI single, Wells beat out another potential double-play ball and another run scored on a fielder's choice to first.
Chris Iannetta's slow roller to third ended the game with a runner on second.
Maicer Izturis had a two-run single in a five-run second inning and stole two of the Angels' five bases. Trumbo homered and scored a run in the fifth on Wells' two-out ground-rule double when he walked and stole a base.
Josh Willingham started a three-run seventh with his fourth of Minnesota's six home runs this year.
After hitting 28 home runs and winning the American League Most Valuable Player award in 2009, Mauer has only gone deep 13 times — and just twice at Target Field, plus one in an exhibition game when the ballpark first opened in 2010. During that MVP season, he routinely pulled the ball to left, but most of the limited power he's shown in his career has been to the opposite field.
With all the problems he's had staying healthy, particularly last season while fighting weakness and soreness in his legs, Mauer has infrequently been behind the plate for matinees following night games. But Mauer hasn't been held back so far this spring, and manager Ron Gardenhire didn't hesitate to slot him in the lineup as Liriano's catcher for this one.
"I didn't ask," Gardenhire said, grinning before the game.
Roughed up by the Kansas City Royals in his first start, Haren was remarkably hittable again, but he was tough when he needed to be against the two left-handed hitters. Mauer struck out and Morneau flied out to the warning track with Span on third in the first. Mauer's infield pop out and Morneau's lazy fly followed a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the third.
But Mauer, who was booed after his weak pop, got one back in a big way in his next at-bat.
Liriano's allowed 15 hits and five walks in over nine innings this year. Pitching coach Rick Anderson paid a visit in the second, when Trumbo started the inning by crushing a drive to the second deck above left-center field. Another run scored when Mauer one-hopped his throw to second base during a double steal for an error.
Liriano finished five innings, giving up seven hits, six runs — five earned — and three walks with two strikeouts. Haren lasted the same, allowing nine hits, three runs and one walk with seven strikeouts.
NOTES: The Angels announced RH Jerome Williams as their starter for Sunday's game in New York against the Yankees. Williams started the season on the DL with a strained left hamstring, but he was expected to be in their rotation all along. With an off day this week, they only needed four starters for the first turn through. ... With RH Jason Marquis making his final minor league tuneup start on Thursday and RH Scott Baker set for season-ending elbow surgery, the fifth spot in the rotation has become a competition between RH Anthony Swarzak, who pitches on Friday, and RH Liam Liam Hendriks, who takes the mound on Sunday. One of them will take the remaining open slot next week when Marquis rejoins the team. ... The opening homestand doesn't get any easier for the Twins when the Texas Rangers arrive on Friday for a three-game series. LH Matt Harrison, who threw six scoreless innings to win his first start, takes the mound for the Rangers. Swarzak took the loss in his first turn, giving up one run in five innings.