08/02/09 12:20 AM ET
Halos put on a clinic at the Metrodome
Angels total 18 hits in a total offensive assault
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
Baseball's most lethal offense continued on its destructive mission on Saturday night at the Metrodome.
With Maicer Izturis, Juan Rivera and Kendry Morales launching homers in the sixth inning, the Angels pounded out 18 hits and leveled the Twins, 11-6, behind southpaw Joe Saunders.
It was the fourth win in a row for the Angels, who raised their AL West lead to four games over the Rangers.
The Angels own the best record in the American League (62-40) and lead the Majors averaging 5.66 runs per game. They have thrashed Twins pitching for 37 hits in two days covering 20 innings.
"The template is a little different than what we're used to here," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, noting how the multifaceted offense has been carrying a starting rotation that traditionally has been the club's foremost weapon.
Saunders settled into a groove after the Twins scored twice in the second inning and twice in the third. Moving to 9-6, the southpaw lasted six innings, yielding four earned runs on nine hits. He issued one walk and struck out two men.
Three scoreless innings that followed the pair of deuces by the Twins made Saunders' day.
"That was huge, game-wise and confidence-wise," Saunders said. "Putting up those three zeros was a good step in the right direction."
Saunders feels he found something that's been missing: a faster beat.
He intends to emulate White Sox southpaw Mark Buehrle, who delivered a perfect game, 27 outs, with the speed of a short-order cook at the noon hour.
"We're working on picking up the tempo -- getting it and throwing it," Saunders said. "Not thinking too much. That's kind of been my problem. My tempo was slow. When I'm working fast, I'm keeping my defense involved, keeping in a good rhythm, and kind of keeping the hitters off balance.
"It's like Buehrle. I'm trying to pitch to his tempo. It can work for me, too."
Izturis' three-run homer gave him four RBIs for the night. He'd singled home a run during a three-run second inning against starter Anthony Swarzak. The right-hander departed after Erick Aybar tripled in the fourth and scored on a single by Gary Matthews Jr., who had doubled home two runs in the second inning with two outs.
"I was trying to hit a line drive, like always," Izturis said. "I never try to hit home runs like the big guys."
Swarzak, who held the Angels to one run in 6 2/3 innings last Sunday in Anaheim, fell to 3-4.
"I think they were very patient," Swarzak said. "They didn't chase many pitches out of the zone. When I threw a good curveball down, they didn't bite. They were waiting on one pitch, one location and they got it over and over again."
Rivera greeted reliever Bobby Keppel with a solo homer in the sixth, his 18th, and Morales followed with a monstrous shot into the upper deck in right, his 21st.
"You're not going to see a ball hit harder than Juan Rivera's," Scioscia said of the laser to left center. "That was incredible."
Rivera, who has 13 homers and 36 RBIs in his past 38 games, took his impressive show of force in stride.
"A lot of wind," he said in Spanish. "From the air conditioning."
The Angels' lineup featured five men batting higher than .300 -- Chone Figgins, Izturis, Abreu, Rivera and Aybar -- with Morales (.295) and Napoli (.293) knocking on the door.
"The Angels, they can hit, no question," new Twins shortstop Orlando Cabrera said. "Almost everybody is hitting over .300. We battled, We tried to come back. We came up short."
Matthews and Napoli each produced three hits. Napoli has seven in the two games.
Rookie Sean Rodriguez, making his first career start in left field, singled twice, scoring each time.
Figgins, Izturis, Rivera, Morales, Napoli, Matthews and Rodriguez all had multi-hit games. Figgins also walked twice.
"It's natural for me, to play the outfield," said Rodriguez, who got clean breaks on opposite-field drives by Joe Mauer in the seventh and eighth innings for outs. "My dad was a good center fielder.
"He calls me before every game to pray, and I call my wife every day to pray."
This is something opposing pitchers might want to try.
"We're on fire," Saunders said. "We're dangerous. We've got two of our big dogs [Torii Hunter and Vladimir Guerrero] out. That's a good sign. Wait till they come back. Look out."
Fitting seamlessly into his fourth lineup in three years, Cabrera -- a Gold Glove winner for the 2007 Angels -- doubled and singled, scoring a run and driving in another.
Justin Morneau bashed his 27th homer in the seventh against reliever Matt Palmer.
After the Twins added a run in the eighth on Cabrera's RBI single, right-hander Shane Loux was summoned to face Mauer with runners on the corners and two out. Rodriguez speared his drive toward the left-field corner.
Since Swarzak shut them down in Anaheim last Sunday in a 10-1 decision, the Angels have erupted for 44 runs in five games.
"I wouldn't worry about it," Napoli had said with a knowing grin after that loss.
Evidently, he knew what kind of offense he was involved with, a multi-dimensional wrecking crew.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.