Nick Punto tripled off Hunter's glove leading off the 12th inning and scored on a single by rookie Denard Span, helping the Twins top the Angels 2-1 on Thursday night and pull within a half-game of the AL Central lead.
"I expect to catch that ball. I've got to catch that," said Hunter, who made a leaping attempt in front of the 18-foot wall in right-center. "I'd been playing Punto to pull all night, and he hit it right where I was supposed to be. If it hits your glove, you've got to catch that.
"I make those plays nine out of 10 times."
One out later, Justin Speier (1-7) gave up Span's opposite-field hit inside third base. The run increased the right-hander's ERA to 5.26.
"I could have buried that split-finger a little bit better than I did," Speier said. "I could have bounced it a little bit more and gone for the strikeout. And if I did, who knows what would have happened? I do everything to prepare myself to pitch, but I'm not getting the results I want. It's frustrating."
Hunter signed with the Angels in November after spending his first 10 seasons with the Twins. This was his two-time All-Star's first crack at his ex-teammates since the season-opening, four-game set at Minnesota, where the Angels took three of four and Hunter went 3-for-16 with a home run.
"Nicky ripped it pretty good and Torii had a long ways to go," manager Ron Gardenhire said of Punto's fifth triple. "We've seen him make plenty of catches like that, and I'm glad he didn't make it. But he's as good as they get out there. We got a little lucky there."
"It all starts with pitching, and Scott Baker was really really good going up against Mr. Lackey -- who's always really good against us," Gardenhire said. "We knew we were going to be in for a battle, and it was. It's a nice start to a road trip."
The Angels have lost six of eight, but still lead Texas by 15 games in the AL West.
Lackey's throwing error to first base on a bunt by Span in the eighth gave the Twins runners at second and third with none out, but the right-hander escaped the jam. He struck out Alexei Casilla, then got Justin Morneau to hit into a double play after an intentional walk to AL batting leader Joe Mauer.
"Lackey can bear down and make pitches in situations like that as good as anybody in the game," Gardenhire said. "We missed some opportunities, but in those opportunities you look over at the other side and you see who's pitching. He didn't miss too many spots."
Lackey allowed a run and five hits in eight innings and struck out six in his 200th big league start. His 3.29 ERA since the start of the 2005 season is the third lowest in the AL behind Johan Santana (2.99) and Roy Halladay (3.07).
Hunter hit a drive in the fourth inning to left field that looked as though it would be a home run, but Delmon Young caught the ball on the warning track.
"When you hit it good, you kind of have that look," Hunter said. "But I know this park, and the ball doesn't really travel at night. I hit it good enough, but at 387 [feet], it's a little deep I guess. That was tough to swallow."
Mark Teixeira opened the scoring in the first with his 25th home run and fifth since joining the Angels in a July 29 trade with Atlanta. The Twins tied it in the fifth on a two-out double by Punto and an RBI single by Carlos Gomez, who inherited the center field job from Hunter.
Mauer, who leads the league with a. 323 average, extended his career-best hitting streak to 13 games with a first-inning single. Two seasons ago, Mauer became the third catcher in history to win a league battle title.
Garret Anderson was 0-for-5 with three strikeouts, ending his 23-game hitting streak on the one-year anniversary of his 10-RBI game against the Yankees at Angel Stadium. ... The Twins began a 14-game road trip through Anaheim, Oakland, Seattle and Toronto. It's the club's longest since 1969, when they had stretches of 15 straight and 16 straight away from home. ... This was the first time in nine starts that Lackey didn't allow a home run. ... Howie Kendrick's infield single in the 10th was the only hit by the Angels after Teixeira's leadoff single in the fourth.