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MIN@LAA: Hunter launches a two-run shot in the fourth

ANAHEIM -- Perhaps it's just the optimist in him, but Torii Hunter swears he keeps seeing signs that the Angels' offense is about to get rolling.

"You can see the sparks -- I told you that already," said Hunter, his right thumb flicking an imaginary lighter. "The light's not there yet, but we're sparking it."

Then again, it's a lot easier to talk like that after victories.

On Monday night, the Angels got a much-needed one thanks to Hunter (one of few bright spots on a struggling offense) and Scott Downs (one of few bright spots in a struggling bullpen), who teamed up to give the Angels a 4-3 win that came after a 1-5 road trip and handed C.J. Wilson his first victory at Angel Stadium.

Wilson breezed through seven scoreless innings, then surrendered two runs against the first three batters in the eighth and turned the game over to a bullpen that came in with a Major League-leading six blown saves.

Thank goodness for Downs, the recently appointed closer who got the last four outs of the game, preserving a one-run cushion after LaTroy Hawkins gave up a run on two hits against three batters in the eighth.

If Downs' left arm were made of rubber and he could take on multiple innings every day, the Angels' bullpen would probably be just fine.

But he can't -- so they're really not.

"We need more than one," said manager Mike Scioscia, whose club moved to 8-15 and remained nine games behind the Rangers in the American League West. "We need those guys to start to pitch to their capabilities, because we're just not going to be able to slide by [with one consistent reliever]. It's nice to have one guy, but that's not going to last long."

The Angels managed just nine runs on their recent road trip and came in ranked 24th in runs per game (3.45). And even against a Twins team that has the worst starting-pitcher ERA in baseball, Albert Pujols remained homerless through 92 at-bats and all of April and the Angels failed to notch double-digit hits for the eighth straight game.

But Hunter, batting .333 in his previous six games, took it upon himself in the No. 5 spot, lacing an RBI single off Nick Blackburn in the first, then hitting a two-run shot -- his third homer in the last four days -- to make it a 3-0 game in the fourth. Chris Iannetta then added a solo homer in the seventh, giving the Angels their first multi-homer game since April 15 -- and providing what ended up being a big insurance run.

It was the first time in eight games the Angels had scored four or more runs.

"Torii is the only one swinging the bat well the last couple of days, but it's been a tough month for everybody," said Pujols, who added his first double since April 19 and is now batting .217 after a 1-for-4 performance.

"It's really crazy to see the whole ballclub going through this. Usually you have one or two guys cool off and the other seven guys swinging the bat pretty well, but it seems like everybody's going through this little funk."

But Hunter points to all the line drives that were caught in Cleveland on Sunday, the three-ball counts the Angels frequently worked Monday night, the smoking liner Pujols hit that sailed just a few feet wide of the left-field foul pole and the balls Erick Aybar is hitting in general.

In reality, though, he's really the only one with the tangible results lately.

With Mark Trumbo in and out of the lineup, he's the only one consistently producing.

"That's what all of us try to do," said Hunter, who has driven in six of the Angels' last eight runs and has an 11-game hitting streak against his former team. "Some of us try to lead and pick it up. That's what I want to do, and it's happening. That's what you try to do, just try to lead by example. I'm having good at-bats, and I'm just hoping guys would catch it. It's a disease, so let's catch it. It's a good disease."

Wilson cruised against a Joe Mauer-less Twins lineup early, hurling seven innings of three-hit ball, while striking out four, inducing 11 groundouts, putting only one runner in scoring position and letting only five balls reach the outfield.

Then, Wilson said, "I got a little too amped up."

Without much use for his slider, Wilson hit Chris Parmelee to start the eighth, then gave up an RBI double to Alexi Casilla and a run-scoring single to Denard Span, leaving two batters later with 108 pitches to his name.

Hawkins, who had a 1.23 ERA and WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) through his first 7 1/3 innings, then gave up singles to Josh Willingham and Danny Valencia, who made it a one-run game, before turning it over to Downs.

Downs, who hasn't given up a run in 9 1/3 innings, then allowed the Angels to turn the calendar on a positive note.

"There's too much talent on this club for us to struggle like we have the last month," Pujols said. "It's a new month tomorrow, and you never know, maybe we score 10 runs every day now." Comments