MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins have found various ways to escape trouble this season, whether it has been overcoming injuries to key players or working their way out of tight jams.But on Sunday afternoon, it was an umpire's ruling that helped the Twins preserve a 6-5 victory over the Rangers at Target Field, and they completed the three-game series sweep. In an unusual finish, third-base umpire Alfonso Marquez ruled that Rangers third-base coach Dave Anderson had interfered with runner Michael Young, thus resulting in the final out of the game. Bolstered by a strong start from Nick Blackburn and some timely hits against Rangers starter C.J. Wilson, the Twins were leading by four runs at the start of the ninth inning. Then things got, as manager Ron Gardenhire described it, "hairy." Trailing, 6-2, Texas scored two runs in the ninth off Jon Rauch before loading the bases against closer Matt Capps. With the tying run at second, Vladimir Guerrero hit an RBI single up the middle that second baseman Orlando Hudson fielded behind the bag. Young, who had been on second, went around third. Anderson was in front of him with one arm high as the "stop" sign and the other pointed at third base. He was frantically telling Young to get back to the base, because Hudson had thrown to third. Young's dive back into third appeared to beat Matt Tolbert's tag, but Marquez pointed at Anderson and said he had touched Young, meaning that coach's interference took place, resulting in the game's final out. The rule, 7:09 (h) of the Official Rules, states that the runner is out if: "In the judgment of the umpire, the base coach at third base, or first base, by touching or holding the runner, physically assists him in returning to or leaving third or first base."
"They made contact at third base. That's automatic," Gardenhire said, citing replays as evidence. "The umpire has to make a call. If there is contact, he's got to make a call. That's what he did. And they made contact. Unfortunate, yes. It probably didn't help him stop or get back, but contact is contact. And that's what Alfonso called."When the call was made, Rangers manager Ron Washington -- who was hobbled by a hamstring pull he sustained during the Twins Legends Game earlier in the day -- headed out to argued, to no avail. The Rangers believe that no contact had been made. "[Marquez] said that Dave reached out and touched him," Washington said. "All you have to do is look at the replay. You certainly shouldn't have a game end like that, as long as we were out there and as hard as we fought to get back. To let that happen ...
"If he calls him out at third base, OK. But to use that as an excuse ..."Crew chief Tim Tschida said that according to the rules, even if the contact is accidental, the runner is out. "The ruling on the play is that a base coach either touching, physically assisting in any way, with the baserunner is not allowed and the runner is called out," said Tschida, who in his 30 years of umpiring had only seen the rule used twice, including Sunday's contest. One thing that both the Twins and the umpires seemed to be clear about is that Young would have been safe at third had the interference call not been made. That would have put the tying run just 90 feet from home plate. "I'm pretty sure he was safe when he slid back in," Tolbert said. "Orlando made a good play on that. But that was not why he called him out. "[The ruling] came at a good time, you know? We needed it. We needed something right then." That was the only out Capps recorded as he picked up his ninth save for the Twins, but it was enough to preserve the victory for Blackburn, who delivered yet another strong outing. Since rejoining the rotation on Aug. 23 following a brief stint in the Minors, Blackburn has recorded three straight quality starts. He's posted a 2-1 record and 1.99 ERA in those outings, thanks in large part to rediscovering his sinker while at Triple-A Rochester. Blackburn wasn't the only starter who delivered a big performance en route to capturing the sweep of Texas. Coming off a 13-inning loss to the Tigers on Thursday night in which Brian Duensing and Blackburn were used in relief, the pitching staff looked to be in shambles. But thanks to a strong outing by spot starter Matt Fox on Friday night, Carl Pavano's eight-inning gem on Saturday and Blackburn's performance in the finale, the Twins swept the Rangers at home for the second time this season. "That's a very good baseball team, with a lot of weapons, and you have to pitch well," Gardenhire said. "[It was] unbelievable after the 13-inning game to come into this series really fighting with our whole pitching staff. To come and pitch like we did for three performances is pretty doggone good." Offensively, the Twins did just enough on Sunday, tagging Wilson for six runs on seven hits over 5 1/3 innings. It was the second-most runs that Wilson had allowed in a start this season. The Twins entered Sunday with a 3 1/2-game lead in the American League Central, and it remains that way after the White Sox picked up a 7-5 comeback victory over the Red Sox to complete their own three-game series sweep in Boston. But though the Twins' sweep of Texas might not have come as cleanly as they would have liked, there is no question that the club is happy to walk away with this victory. "Those guys can play ball over there," Blackburn said. "We'll take [victories] whenever we can. We've played well against those guys so far this year, and hopefully Kansas City comes in and we'll do the same thing."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.