Late rally helps Twins sink Rangers
Small ball sparks three-run eighth; Nathan escapes ninth
MINNEAPOLIS -- All weekend long, the Twins struggled to put together much offense against the Rangers, at one point going 19 consecutive innings without scoring a run. In their win Friday, all three runs came in the first inning. On Saturday, they never crossed home plate.It was a bit fitting, then, that Minnesota waited until the final minutes of the weekend series to scrape together three big runs in the eighth inning Sunday, coming from behind to top the Rangers, 5-3. The win gave the Twins the series victory, the team's third straight winning series. It also kept Minnesota 4 1/2 games behind division-leading Detroit and a game and a half ahead of Chicago -- its next opponent -- in the American League Central standings. "We're playing a little bit better baseball," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It's kind of fun." Fun could also be one way to describe Minnesota's eighth inning. Trailing, 3-2, the Twins put together three runs -- two on balls that never left the infield -- to take a 5-3 lead before closer Joe Nathan saved it in the ninth. Minnesota's first run of the eighth came on a base hit to left by third baseman Brendan Harris, as his single off reliever C.J. Wilson split third baseman Michael Young and shortstop Elvis Andrus and drove in Justin Morneau from second. One batter later, catcher Mike Redmond -- who earlier in the game hit just his third career triple -- hit a chopper to first base that was fielded by Hank Blalock. Carlos Gomez, pinch-running for Jason Kubel, took off from third base on the contact and beat Blalock's throw home to give the Twins the lead. "I was going to make contact in that situation no matter what," Redmond said. "I knew with [Gomez] at third, all I had to do was just get it on the ground. As long as I kept it away from the pitcher, he had a chance to score." The Twins' late rally wasn't quite done, as Nick Punto's squeeze bunt brought home Harris, pushing Minnesota's lead to 5-3. "That's small ball at its finest right there," Harris said. "A couple singles, a walk, a squeeze play, chopper. We haven't really got too much going all series. We had to piece it together." "Those guys are a speed-oriented team," said Wilson (4-6). "I don't know. ... Somebody must have sacrificed a chicken for that one." The three-run eighth helped Minnesota overcome a big two-run homer in the seventh inning by Texas slugger Nelson Cruz, whose blast put the Rangers up, 3-2. Cruz drove his 28th homer of the season to right-center off Twins starter Scott Baker, also scoring Ian Kinsler. "Obviously, I would have made a different pitch if I would have known that would be the result," Baker said. "It happens. I felt like I provided the team with an outing where we had a chance to win, kept the team in it the entire time, and we ended up pulling out a win." The Twins used a two-run home run of their own to take a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning, when Kubel delivered his 21st long ball of the season. Kubel sent a 3-2 pitch deep to right-center, scoring Morneau, who doubled ahead of Kubel. Later in the inning, a little bit of a spark -- and a bit of comic relief -- was provided by the 38-year-old Redmond, who legged out his third career triple on a shot to the gap in left-center that rolled all the way to the wall. Redmond hustled around second and made his way safely to third, diving head first before pumping his fist in excitement. "When he rounded second, I saw that parachute open and I'm going, 'Boy, this ain't going to make it,'" Gardenhire joked. "That wasn't a dive into third. That was a fall." "I'm sure I'll be sore tomorrow," Redmond said. "But that's a good sore." Nathan again provided an interesting ninth inning, as Texas loaded the bases with no outs. Nathan issued a leadoff walk to Blalock before giving up a single to Cruz. Ivan Rodriguez then hit a comebacker to the mound, but Nathan's throw to second base was low, allowing Rodriguez to reach and Blalock and Cruz to advance. "Obviously the [error] is all on me, right back to me," Nathan said. "Pretty much a routine double play for us if I get it over to [Punto]." The All-Star closer was able to escape the ninth and pick up his 34th save, retiring the next three batters without surrendering a run. "They haven't come too easy lately," Nathan said. "Bases loaded, no outs. All you can do there is make pitches. You can't worry about how the runners got on base, how many runners are on base." Newly acquired reliever Jon Rauch (1-0) pitched a scoreless eighth inning to earn the victory, his first as a member of the Twins. Minnesota was unable to gain ground in the standings thanks to Detroit's win Sunday. But the Twins will try to carry the momentum of their win when they welcome in the third-place White Sox for a three-game series starting Monday at the Metrodome. "Detroit's not losing right now," Gardenhire said. "We've got to win to catch them. We've got to put together streaks. We know that, and we're capable of it."
Tyler Mason is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.