MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins headed into this season with plenty of question marks, but the effectiveness of reliever Glen Perkins certainly wasn't one of them.
Perkins was one of the best relievers in baseball last season, posting a 2.48 ERA in 61 2/3 innings, and he was rewarded during the spring with a three-year extension through the 2015 season worth a guaranteed $10.3 million.
But Perkins struggled for the second straight day on Sunday, as he was unable to protect a late lead to spoil a solid start from rookie Liam Hendriks in a 4-3 loss to the Rangers at Target Field on Jackie Robinson Day.
Perkins entered the eighth inning with the Twins clinging to a two-run lead, but he quickly surrendered three runs without even recording an out. He walked Ian Kinsler before giving up an RBI triple to Elvis Andrus and a two-run homer to Josh Hamilton.
"I missed a lot of spots today," Perkins said. "I walked the leadoff guy, left a ball up to Andrus and he hit it hard, and obviously Hamilton, I wasn't trying to throw it down the middle. That's what happens. They're a good hitting team. And it stinks. Liam did a good job and our hitters did enough to win the game, but I didn't do my job."
Perkins allowed just two homers last season, but he gave up a big one to Hamilton in the eighth on a first-pitch fastball. Perkins said the problem was the location of the pitch, and not the idea of challenging him with the fastball.
"If I locate that pitch, he's out," Perkins said. "I was trying to throw it down and in off the plate, and he's going to swing at it just like he did there. He likes to swing the bat. But a hitter like that, they're gonna make you pay for a mistake. That's what he should've done with it. I threw it down the middle."
Hamilton's homer spoiled strong debuts from Hendriks, who tossed six quality innings, and right fielder Clete Thomas, who hit a two-run homer in the fifth.
Hendriks, who missed his first scheduled start with food poisoning exactly a week ago, didn't show any ill effects against a tough Rangers lineup. He allowed just one run -- coming on a solo homer from Mike Napoli in the fifth -- and seven hits over six innings. He also didn't walk a batter.
"I felt strong but I thought I was getting a little bit tired," said Hendriks, who threw 84 pitches. "But that's going to happen after you're hospitalized and you miss a start."
Thomas, who was acquired as a waiver claim from the Tigers on Saturday, just missed a homer in his first at-bat against right-hander Neftali Feliz in the third inning. But in his next at-bat, Thomas crushed a 1-0 pitch for a two-run homer off Feliz that gave the Twins the lead in the fifth.
"The first one I thought he hit at least off the wall, but the guy caught it, and the second one was a no-doubter," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He killed that ball. So it was nice."
Thomas also helped out defensively in right field, making a strong relay throw to Alexi Casilla, who was able to throw out Adrian Beltre at the plate as he tried to score from first on a double by Michael Young in the sixth.
Minnesota added a run in the bottom half of the frame, as Denard Span tripled to lead off the inning and scored on a single from Jamey Carroll. But the Twins ended up stranding two runners on base after a walk to Joe Mauer, as reliever Robbie Ross was able to get out of the jam.
It was more of the same in the eighth, when Span reached on a single but Carroll was unable to execute a sacrifice bunt that proved costly. Mauer then proceeded to rip a ball down the first-base line, but it ended up being a double play because Span was being held on at first.
"It's tough," Mauer said. "Obviously, you want to get those guys in. It was frustrating in my last at-bat, because I hit a ball squared up on the barrel and the guy was standing right there over the bag."
Former Twins closer Joe Nathan picked up the save against his former club, tossing a perfect ninth inning for the Rangers to preserve the victory and Texas' first three-game sweep in Minnesota since 1999.
"It's nice to come in here and sweep these guys," Nathan said. "I think it's been a while since we'd won a series here. It's kind of hard to talk when I was with both [clubs], but I know the Twins have done pretty well against this club at this park."