ANAHEIM — Clete Thomas may have made the highlight plays, but his Minnesota Twins teammate, whose defensive consistency and clutch base hit, contributed just as much to the win.
Santa Maria native Doug Bernier started at shortstop, notched the first major league hit and RBI of his career, as the Twins defeated the Los Angeles Angels 4-3 Monday night.
Facing Angels starter Joe Blanton, Bernier, who graduated from St. Joseph High School before going on to star at Oral Roberts, flew out to center field in his first at-bat Monday, hitting from the No. 2 spot.
The 33-year-old’s next at-bat, however, will be etched into the Bernier family lore for years to come.
After Angels left fielder J.B. Shuck threw out Aaron Hicks at home plate, Bernier doubled down the left field line on the following pitch, driving in Brian Dozier and giving the Twins their 4-2 lead.
The hit off Blanton was his first in the major leagues. Bernier has played in 1,054 minor league games before being called up just over a week ago.
His previous major league stint came with the Colorado Rockies in 2008. He went 0-for-8 then. Bernier walked in his only at-bat as a substitute Sunday against Cleveland.
Bernier was playing in his fourth big league game and making his first start in the majors since June 19, 2008, with Colorado. He was recalled from Triple-A Rochester on July 14, more than 11 years after signing his first professional contract.
Bernier’s RBI would serve as the game-winner.
The Twins went up 3-2 on Thomas’ fourth homer and the 24th allowed by Blanton, who leads the majors in that department
Thomas also had an RBI double, then robbed pinch-hitter Chris Iannetta of a go-ahead homer in the eighth inning
Bernier and the Twins handed Blanton his major league-worst 13th defeat.
The former Knight started for regular shortstop Pedro Florimon. Bernier can play every infield position except for first base. It is not known if Bernier will start tonight’s game.
Samuel Deduno (6-4) allowed two runs, four hits and five walks over seven innings while striking out five on the anniversary of his first big league victory. The 30-year-old right-hander faced a lineup missing cleanup hitter Josh Hamilton because of stiffness in his right ankle.
Casey Fien gave up two hits in the eighth and was replaced by All-Star closer Glen Perkins. Pinch-hitter Collin Cowgill greeted the left-hander with an RBI single, and Iannetta drove the next pitch on a high arc toward the left-field fence, where Thomas made a leaping grab.
Perkins escaped with his 24th save in 26 chances, extending his scoreless streak to 19 1-3 innings after striking out Albert Pujols and Howie Kendrick in the ninth with two on.
The Twins began a seven-game road trip with their fifth victory in six games, following a 1-12 slide that increased their deficit in the AL Central from six to 12 1/2 games. They trail division-leading Detroit by 11.
Blanton (2-13) threw 90 pitches in 3 2-3 innings, giving up four runs and nine hits. The beleaguered right-hander, who has allowed a major league-worst 157 hits, is 0-5 with a 5.46 ERA in 10 starts at Angel Stadium after signing a two-year, $15 million contract in December as a free agent. His only victories have come against the Royals and Astros, who are a combined 38 games under .500.
The Angels opened the scoring in the first inning without the benefit of a hit. Deduno walked his first two batters, both advanced on a hit-and-run groundout by Pujols, and Howie Kendrick drove in Shuck with a sacrifice fly.
Minnesota took a 2-1 lead in the second on two-out RBI doubles by Thomas and Hicks, the eighth and ninth hitters, but the Angels tied it in the third with an RBI single by Mike Trout that extended his career-best hitting streak to 14 games.
Information from Joe Resnick of the Associated Press was used in this report.