MINNEAPOLIS (AP) A September skid was starting to threaten the Los Angeles Angels' playoff chances and they started a series against wild card competition in Minnesota in the worst possible way.
That's when Mike Trout took over, just like the MVP is supposed to do.
Trout hit a grand slam and a solo shot to set a career high for home runs in a season with 38 and the Angels beat the Twins 11-8 on Thursday night.
The reigning AL MVP's grand slam in the second inning erased most of an early 5-0 deficit and he led off the fourth with his second homer of the game.
''That's the reason why he's the best player in the game,'' said catcher Chris Iannetta, who added a homer and two RBIs.
Taylor Featherston also homered and Huston Street picked up his 36th save for the Angels (74-72), who pulled within 2 1/2 games of Houston in the race for the second AL wild card.
''It's September. We got to go now,'' Trout said. ''It's time to go. We've got like 18 games left (actually 16) and every one of them is going to be big. We've got to win them all.''
Torii Hunter and Aaron Hicks went deep for the Twins (75-71), who trail the Astros by 1 1/2 games in the crowded AL playoff race. But Tommy Milone lasted just 1 1-3 innings despite being staked to that five-run lead. Milone gave up five runs, four hits and three walks.
The Angels had lost three of their last four games and appeared to be coming a little unglued after Jered Weaver was thrown out of the series finale against Seattle on Wednesday for hitting Kyle Seager with a pitch. But a convincing comeback against the Twins and a loss by the Astros to Texas, and suddenly they are right back in it.
The Twins jumped all over Angels starter Hector Santiago in the first inning.
Joe Mauer drove in the first run of the game with a single that extended his streak of reaching base to a career-high 37 games. Hunter hit a three-run homer and Kurt Suzuki added an RBI double to put the Twins up 5-0.
Santiago gave up five runs on five hits in 2-3 of an inning.
The cushion did nothing for Milone, who gave up an RBI-single to Iannetta and walked in another run with the bases loaded, forcing manager Paul Molitor to yank him with one out in the second inning. A.J. Achter entered and served up the opposite field homer to Trout, his fourth career grand slam and second this season, that put the Angels up 6-5.
Trout walked three times and made a sensational play in center field in the third inning, sprinting to track down Hicks' drive to the gap that would have scored at least one run. He hit the first pitch of the fourth inning into the seats in left for his eighth career multihomer game.
He hit 36 homers last season.
''I don't care who you're with, it's no fun to see Trout get five RBIs and two home runs and that offense just took off like that,'' Hunter said. ''It's no fun to be on that side.''
The Angels left-hander threw just 30 pitches before getting the hook. He watched a popup near the mound drop for a hit when first baseman C.J. Cron lost it in the lights. His five earned runs allowed matched a season high.
''It just piled on,'' Santiago said. ''I fell behind in some counts and I wasn't right on.''
Angels: INF Johnny Giavotella, on the DL since Sept. 5 with a nerve issue that gives him double vision, took some swings in the batting cage Thursday, but manager Mike Scioscia said he is not close to returning.
Twins: RHP Phil Hughes was shaky earlier this week in his return from a back injury, so Molitor said he will not start through the next two series. Molitor said Hughes will be available in the bullpen this weekend.
The Twins send RHP Mike Pelfrey (6-9, 4.09) to the mound for Game 2 to face LHP Andrew Heaney (6-3, 3.32). Pelfrey gave up one run in 5 1-3 innings in his last start, a no-decision against Kansas City on Sept. 9. Heaney will be making his first career start against the Twins. He is 3-1 with a 2.11 ERA on the road this season.