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Matsui gets 2 big hits in Angels' win over Twins

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Matsui gets 2 big hits in Angels' win over Twins
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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Hideki Matsui's teammates with the Los Angeles Angels are still learning personal details about their new cleanup hitter, such as his ferocious work ethic and his passable English.


After just one regular-season game, the Angels already know Matsui is awfully good at his job.

Matsui drove in the go-ahead run in the fifth and added an eighth-inning homer in his dynamic Angels debut, and Jered Weaver pitched six strong innings for Los Angeles in a 6-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Monday night.

Jeff Mathis and Kendry Morales also homered as the Angels opened their 50th season and their run at a fourth straight AL West title with their sixth victory in the last seven openers.

But with all eyes on the Japanese star who wasn't re-signed by the New York Yankees after his World Series MVP performance, Matsui put on a show.

"He's the real deal. That's Godzilla right there," Angels outfielder Torii Hunter said, referencing Matsui's nickname. "I've been saying that guy was the quietest clutch hitter in the game, and now you see it."

After an 0-for-2 start, Matsui quickly showed why the Angels chose him over slugger Vladimir Guerrero in free agency by driving a two-out single to right to score Erick Aybar in the fifth.

Matsui then connected for a long shot to center off Jose Mijares in the eighth, thrilling a sellout crowd that included 10 fans in the right-field bleachers holding up signs that spelled "Matsuiland," an echo of the Dodgers' "Mannywood" sign in left field.

"Anybody always wants to start off the season on a good note," Matsui said through a translator. "I was just happy I was able to do it, and hopefully I can extend that a bit more."

Matsui became the first player to homer in his Angels debut since Morales did it in May 2006. The Japanese slugger is no stranger to such feats. In 2003, his first season in New York, Matsui became the first Yankee to hit a grand slam in his first game at Yankee Stadium.

The Angels signed Matsui to a one-year contract last December following his stellar 2009 postseason, and manager Mike Scioscia has installed the designated hitter in the heart of his lineup. Morales, the rising Cuban star who homered right after Matsui's shot in the eighth, should benefit from the veteran's productivity.

"Hideki knows how to hit. He knows the situational part of it, and he studies," Scioscia said. "You just see what a professional hitter he is. Hideki's talent, along with his experience, we hope it adds up to a very productive season for him."

Delmon Young hit a two-run homer as the Twins opened chase of their sixth division title in nine seasons with an unimpressive effort from Scott Baker (0-1). The right-hander gave up five hits, four runs and three walks while failing to get out of the fifth, allowing Matsui's RBI single on his final pitch.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire credited Matsui's standout debut to his own pitchers.

"He can hit, we all know that," Gardenhire said. "But when you get ahead of him like that -- I mean, we threw two terrible pitches. You know this guy's a great hitter, and that's not the plan. When you get ahead of him, you try to make him expand the zone, but we threw the ball right down the (middle). That's not going to work. He's going to hit that ball every time."

Weaver (1-0) stepped in nicely for former ace John Lackey, who signed a big-money free-agent deal with Boston in the offseason. In his second opening day assignment for the Angels, Weaver yielded five hits and three runs, striking out six and largely staying out of trouble until escaping a bases-loaded jam in the sixth.

"Weaver kept us off balance, changing speeds and moving it in and out," Gardenhire said. "We had a couple of chances. (Justin Morneau) had a great at-bat with the bases loaded (in the seventh) and ended up lining out. The guys were really into it in the dugout, but we just let them put too many balls in the seats."

Not everything worked out for the Angels: Bobby Abreu was hitless on opening day for the first time in his career, going 0 for 4. Abreu had a hit in 13 straight openers, the longest active streak in the majors and the third-longest in baseball history behind Frank Thomas and Will Clark, who each hit in 14 straight.

Pioneer staff reports