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Angels 4, Twins 1: Three Up Three Down

ANAHEIM -- The Angels got a strong effort from starting pitcher Joel Pineiro to take the rubber match against the Minnesota Twins on Sunday, 4-1. They have won eight of their last nine home games.

The Angels kept pace with the Texas Rangers, who beat the Boston Red Sox, 11-4. They remain 3 1/2 games back with 22 games remaining.

The Good:

Seven strong. Joel Pineiro tossed seven innings of one-run ball, relying on his sinker to get eight ground-ball outs and a crucial double play in the seventh. The right-hander won his sixth game of the year, giving up five hits and walking one in his longest outing in nearly two months.

Strong arm. Hank Conger looked much better throwing to second Sunday than he did in his previous stint with the club. The rookie catcher threw out two base runners with ease, though the Twins' Jason Kubel and Danny Valencia aren't necessarily fleet-footed. Defensive progress could earn Conger more playing time down the stretch. He had thrown out less than 14 percent of potential base-stealers heading into Sunday.

Jumping ahead. Designated hitter Bobby Abreu rested Saturday with the Angels facing a left-hander and it might have done him good. In his first at-bat Sunday, Abreu jumped all over a 3-and-2 pitch for his seventh home run of the season, giving the Angels a 1-0 lead. The team improved to 52-21 when they score first.

The Bad:

Small ball. The Angels had nine hits but only one -- Abreu's homer in the first -- went for extra bases. In fact, they had a hit in every inning except the second. And, between innings three and nine, they had gotten just one runner into scoring position.

One pitch. The only thing that went wrong for Pineiro was his fourth-inning duel with Twins designated hitter Joe Mauer. Actually, it went as bad as it could have. Pineiro was fortunate that the bases were empty. Mauer saw eight pitches, fouling off four, before launching a deep homer into the right field pavilion. To no surprise, Mauer walked on four pitches in his next plate appearance.

Sudden struggle. Howie Kendrick had been hitting .365 over the last 16 games heading into Saturday but went a combined 1-for-8 in the last two games of the series.