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Pitching dooms Angels again in loss to Twins

Wednesday - 4/17/2013, 1:20am  ET

Los Angeles Angels pitcher Jason Vargas reacts before manager Mike Scioscia left, pulls him in the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Minnesota Twins Tuesday, April 16, 2013 in Minneapolis. Vargas took the loss as the Twins won 8-6. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

AP Sports Writer

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- There is no quick fix for what ails the Los Angeles Angels.

Poor starting pitching isn't giving their powerful offense much of a chance on most nights, and having to face Joe Mauer five times a game isn't helping.

Jason Vargas became the latest Angels starter to deliver a stinker of an outing and Mauer had another four hits and three RBIs to lead the Twins to an 8-6 victory on Tuesday.

"There's not one magic cure for all the guys that are struggling right now," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Everybody has their own unique set of circumstances and they're going to have to make adjustments according to their own game on what they need to do. I think we have some really good pitchers that just aren't throwing the ball well right now."

Vargas (0-2) gave up five runs and nine hits with two walks in just 3 1-3 innings for the Angels, who are off to another slow start after spending big in the winter to chase a championship. They have lost 10 of their first 14 games to tie the 1961 team for worst start in franchise history.

"We definitely need to get deeper in the game and take some pressure off our bullpen," Vargas said. "Definitely let our hitters have some breathing room, too, so they're not feeling like they're out on the field for a long time, and they've got to come in and score a bunch of runs."

Mauer sprayed four singles into the Target Field outfield, making him 8 for 10 in the series through two games and raising his average to .386. Brian Dozier added two hits and two RBIs in his first career game batting leadoff for the Twins.

Mike Trout had two hits and three RBIs, including a two-run double in the ninth off Glen Perkins. But shortstop Pedro Florimon grabbed a ricochet off third baseman Trevor Plouffe's glove to get Albert Pujols to end the game and give Perkins his third save.

Mike Pelfrey (2-1) gave up four runs and seven hits in five innings for the Twins. He was shaky again in his first season back from Tommy John surgery, but Mauer took care of the offense.

One night after the star catcher homered among his four hits to help the Twins break out of a season-long offensive funk, they hurt Vargas with long at-bats.

Mauer picked up a pair of two-strike singles up the middle in the first two innings, the last of which scored two to give Minnesota a 3-0 lead. He singled again in the fourth inning, giving him six straight hits in the series.

Even his lone out of the night was a loud one, a screaming line drive at left fielder Trout's knees in the fifth inning. He came back with one more RBI single in the seventh to make it 8-4.

It was the second time in his career that the three-time AL batting champion has had at least four hits in back-to-back games. He also did it June 26-27, 2006, against the Dodgers.

"I'm seeing the ball pretty well," Mauer said with typical understatement. "I'm just trying to hold on to that feeling."

The last thing the beleaguered Angels pitching staff needed was another short outing from the starting pitcher. But that's exactly what they got from Vargas, who needed 90 pitches to get 10 outs.

Trout picked up just his third RBI of the season on a hard-hit single and Pujols followed with one of his own to tie the score 3-3. Vargas left with one out in the fourth after Justin Morneau scorched a base hit that took a wicked hop off first baseman Mark Trumbo's shoulder and gave the Twins a 5-4 lead.

Pujols and Josh Hamilton went a combined 1 for 9.

"If you don't control the game on the defensive side, you're never going to have enough offense to overcome that," Scioscia said. "We have a lot of confidence in our offense, I think it's an offense that can, when given a chance, can not only get a lead but break games open. We haven't been able to do that."

NOTES: Angels RHP Ryan Madson threw 40 pitches off the mound before the game as he gets closer to a return from Tommy John surgery. Scioscia said everything went well and the next step is for Madson to throw a simulated game, most likely when the Angels return home on Friday. ... Twins CF Darin Mastroianni was a late scratch because of a sore left ankle. ... Twins slugger Josh Willingham missed his second straight game due to illness. ... RHP Vance Worley (0-2, 10.50) will pitch for the Twins against RHP Tommy Hanson (1-1, 6.55) in the season finale on Wednesday night.

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