07/25/09 1:55 AM ET
Long balls continue Angels' win streak
Quinlan, Mathis and Napoli go yard for Halos vs. Twins
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
Robb Quinlan, Jeff Mathis and Mike Napoli unloaded homers for the Angels, Napoli's three-run blast in the sixth inning giving John Lackey breathing room en route to a 6-3 victory in front of 39,272 at Angel Stadium.
"I think we're going to be talking about Joe Mauer 10 years from now the same way we talk about Johnny Bench, Bill Dickey, Roy Campanella, Carlton Fisk," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's going to be as good as anybody who's played the position.
"You don't find many guys who can do what he can do."
Lackey, following his three-hit shutout in Oakland last time out, yielded only four hits across 7 2/3 innings. Two were launched, to center and to right in the fourth and sixth innings, respectively, by Mauer. He has a career-best 17 homers to go with his .365 batting average.
"He was using all of his pitches," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Lackey. "He knows what to do with a lead. You could really see him get after it."
Watching Mauer go deep twice against Lackey only enhanced Scioscia's appreciation for his starting pitcher from Minnesota.
"This is as good as John's thrown his whole career," Scioscia said. "The last couple times out, he's been as good as ever. His velocity is there, terrific command, his breaking ball is sharp."
Lackey didn't have his Grade A curveball, the big snapper that often finds dirt at the end of its mission, but he got it done in allowing four hits and two walks across 7 2/3 innings.
"We need a starter to step up and pitch well for this team, more than anything," Lackey said. "To take the reins and get it moving.
"The best way to get on [a run] is to not look back. Keep my head down and keep grinding 'em out."
The Angels, who got three hits from a surging Howard Kendrick, have won seven in a row and 11 of 12.
Lackey (6-4) has been dealing like an ace across his past eight outings, interrupted by one bumpy ride (six earned runs in 4 2/3 innings) in his native Texas on July 7.
Excluding that bad one, he has given up just 13 earned runs in 53 2/3 innings, striking 52 hitters in his past 58 1/3 innings while going 5-2.
"I honestly felt my breaking ball wasn't quite as good as it's been the past few outings," Lackey said. "It was more of a strike breaking ball. I wasn't burying it.
"My fastball's been pretty good the last month or so. I went to the changeup more than in the past because I didn't have the put-away breaking ball."
Kendrick's leadoff double preceded Quinlan's second homer of the season in the second inning -- and the first of the St. Paul, Minn., native's career against the Twins. It was the first time since 2006 that Quinlan had homered in consecutive starts.
With Quinlan in left field, Gary Matthews Jr. in center and Brandon Wood at first, the Angels are continuing to score and win without power sources Torii Hunter, Vladimir Guerrero and Juan Rivera.
"I wouldn't say I'm there yet," said Quinlan, who crushed the ball all spring, "but I'm getting more at-bats and trying to get my swing back."
Mathis, catching with Napoli in the designated hitter role, homered in the fifth, his fourth round-tripper.
Erick Aybar and Bobby Abreu singled to start the sixth and Napoli followed with an opposite-field blast, his 14th of the season.
"He kind of made me look silly my first two at-bats," said Napoli, who'd struck out in the first and fourth innings. "I was trying to hit the ball to the outfield to get the runner [Aybar] in from third, and I got a pitch I could drive and hit it out."
In 60 at-bats as a DH, Napoli is batting .367 with a .617 slugging percentage and .441 on-base percentage. He has three homers and nine RBIs.
"Nap's got some sick pop," Lackey said. "I'll put him up against anybody in the league for straight power. That ball tonight, he stepped in the bucket, hit it all hands. That's sick. That's not a friendly joint [ballpark], especially going the other way as a right-handed hitter."
Starter Francisco Liriano fell to 4-10 with the loss, surrendering six earned runs in 5 1/3 innings.
After Lackey departed in the eighth, Kevin Jepsen was summoned to face Mauer, who hit a bullet seemingly headed for the left-field corner.
But Angels third baseman Chone Figgins back-handed the shot with his cat-quick reflexes and gunned Mauer out at first.
"That's why Figgy belonged in the All-Star Game -- not just his offense, but his defense, too," Lackey said.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.