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Hunter, Angels Make First Visit To Target Field In Minnesota

(Sports Network) - Both the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Minnesota Twins made the playoffs last season, but only one of those teams seems to be headed for a return trip.

The Angels will attempt to boost their sagging postseason hopes when they make their first-ever appearance at the brand-new Target Field for tonight's opener of a critical three-game series with the red-hot Twins.

Anaheim has captured three straight American League West titles, but the club faces an uphill climb in its quest for a fourth. With 40 games remaining in the regular season, the Angels trail Texas by seven games for first place in the division.

The Angels were able to gain some ground on the Rangers on Thursday, however. Mike Scioscia's squad came through with a 7-2 victory over Boston last night, while Texas suffered its fourth straight loss after yesterday's setback at Baltimore.

Hideki Matsui snapped a 1-1 tie in Thursday's matchup with the Red Sox by belting a three-run homer in the sixth inning, while Ervin Santana (13-8) made the lead stand for Anaheim by holding Boston to two runs and four hits over the first seven frames.

Matsui finished with four RBI on the night and Alberto Callaspo knocked in two runs for the Angels, who had lost the first two games of the Boston series and three in a row overall.

Los Angeles will now face a surging Minnesota team that's amassed a major league best 24-9 record since the All-Star break and has opened up a four-game lead in the AL Central after just taking two of three tests from the second- place Chicago White Sox. The Twins have also been tough to beat at their new home park as of late, having posted wins in nine of their last 10 games at Target Field.

That streak did come to an end with last night's 11-0 setback to the White Sox, however, which also halted a six-game overall winning streak for Minnesota.

"I think we caught [the White Sox] at a time when they just hit everything," Twins catcher Drew Butera said after Thursday's loss. "They hit mistakes and they hit good pitches too."

Chicago handed Carl Pavano (15-8) one of his worst outings of the season in last night's finale, pounding the Minnesota ace for seven runs and a whopping 15 hits in his six innings of work. Pavano had gone 10-1 with a 2.63 earned run average over his previous 13 starts.

The Twins, who were outhit by a 21-5 margin for the game, will turn to another pitcher who's been on a roll in hopes of bouncing back tonight. Brian Duensing has been sensational since joining the team's rotation a month ago, with the second-year lefty having produced a 3-0 record and a 2.43 ERA during that stretch.

Duensing was especially good in his last start, yielding just three hits and two walks against Oakland this past Saturday to notch his first career shutout. That effort followed up a 7 1/3-inning stint at Cleveland on August 8 in which he allowed four runs (three earned) to pick up another win.

The former University of Nebraska standout's best work has usually come at home this year. In 22 overall appearances that included last Saturday's gem, Duensing is 3-1 with a minuscule 1.42 ERA at Target Field.

This will be Duensing's first-ever start against the Angels, but he's surrendered two runs in 5 1/3 innings over four career encounters with the Halos in relief.

Dan Haren gets the call for Anaheim tonight, with the midseason acquisition in search of his first win on the road since a complete-game performance at Houston on May 6 while still a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Haren hasn't made much of an impact since coming to the Angels in a July 25 trade with Arizona, as Los Angeles has lost in four of his first five starts following the swap. The three-time All-Star isn't entirely to blame for his 1-3 record, however, as he's given up two runs or less in three of those five games.

The hard-throwing righty's only win as a Angel came on August 10, when Haren held Kansas City to one run and five hits over seven sharp innings. He wasn't quite as effective in Sunday's home start against Toronto, which reached him for four runs in seven frames en route to a 4-1 triumph.

Haren is 2-4 with a mediocre 4.93 ERA in 11 road starts between the Diamondbacks and Angels this season, and owns a 2-2 record with a 2.57 ERA over six career meetings with Minnesota. He hasn't faced the Twins since 2007, though.

The Angels have won seven of their last 11 clashes with the Twins and swept a three-game series in their final visit to the Metrodome last year. Minnesota did take three of four from Anaheim in a season-opening series in Southern California this past April, however.