|Minnesota (36-47) «||0||0||3||1||0||0||1||0||0||5||9||0|
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Back-to-back walks left Minnesota's Francisco Liriano with an unsightly six free passes and Ron Gardenhire with a decision to make in the seventh inning.
The Twins manager stuck with his teetering left-hander for one more batter, and Liriano responded with a strikeout that helped quell the final threat from a struggling Texas offense in Minnesota's 5-1 victory Friday night.
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The loss was a season-high fifth straight for the AL West-leading Rangers. Star outfielder Josh Hamilton left early with back spasms and was listed as day-to-day.
"We just wanted Liriano to get through it," Gardenhire said. "Those are big moments for him. We trust him. We don't want to extend our bullpen too much, and he got a big out there."
First baseman Mike Napoli misplayed Josh Willingham's two-out popup for a two-base error that cost the Rangers two runs while the Twins were building a 4-0 lead, but a potentially bigger error didn't affect the scoreboard.
Hamilton, the leading vote-getter for Tuesday's All-Star game, exited soon after misplaying Brian Dozier's fly ball to left field for a three-base error and making a long throw from the warning track in the fifth inning. Hamilton said he first felt a twinge as he broke on the ball.
"I've iced it three times already. It feels a little better than it did," Hamilton said. "It kind of scared me when it first happened because I didn't know what to expect from a spasm like that. I had some weakness in my legs."
Mauer drove in his two runs on a single that scored the only earned run in a three-run third and a sacrifice fly in the fourth. Morneau had an RBI single in the third and hit his 11th home run on a line drive into the right-field seats off Tanner Scheppers in the seventh.
The best chance for Texas came in the sixth when Adrian Beltre singled, Michael Young walked and Nelson Cruz hit an RBI single. With no outs, Napoli deepened his slump by hitting into a double play, and the threat ended with one of three strikeouts by Yorvit Torrealba.
"I've been through that before," said Napoli, hitless in his past 21 at-bats with runners in scoring position. "It's part of the game. I'm just going to keep going."
The absence of Hamilton showed in the seventh when Liriano walked Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus back-to-back, bringing up Hamilton's replacement, rookie Leonys Martin. Gardenhire stuck with Liriano even after Rangers manager Ron Washington went to pinch-hitter Brandon Snyder. After Liriano struck out Snyder, reliever Jared Burton got Beltre on a flyout.
"I've been walking too many guys late in the game, but they have some good hitters, and I made some mistakes with those guys," Liriano said. "So I was just trying to keep my ball down, just try to get them out. If they don't swing, then just go on to the next batter and make my pitches."
The Rangers still have the best offense in baseball -- statistically -- but they've hit their second significant lull in the last month. Texas has scored two runs or fewer in four of the past five games after a similar drought in early June.
"We hit a funk," Washington said. "And the only way we can come out of it we have to keep grinding and play our way through it."
The Twins sent up eight batters in the third, but only because Napoli couldn't handle Willingham's easy two-out popup that landed untouched just inside the foul line behind first base. Mauer scored on the two-base error, and Morneau added another unearned run with a single that scored Willingham.
Rangers rookie left-hander Martin Perez (1-1) was solid in his second career start, allowing six hits and four runs -- two earned -- in six innings with three walks and three strikeouts.
"He certainly showed some heart," Washington said. "The pitches piled up after we didn't catch that popup, and I didn't think he would get into the fifth inning."
|Justin Morneau homers and collects an RBI single as the Twins knock off the Rangers. (AP)|
|Players of the Game|
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|Ben Revere, CF||3||1||2||0||1||0||0||.323|
|Darin Mastroianni, RF||4||0||2||0||1||0||1||.269|
|Joe Mauer, DH||4||1||1||2||0||2||3||.329|
|Josh Willingham, LF||4||1||0||0||1||0||4||.265|
|Justin Morneau, 1B||4||1||2||2||0||1||2||.243|
|Trevor Plouffe, 3B||4||0||1||0||0||1||0||.250|
|Brian Dozier, SS||4||0||0||0||0||1||2||.240|
|Drew Butera, C||4||1||1||0||0||2||1||.242|
|Alexi Casilla, 2B||3||0||0||0||0||0||0||.236|
|HR - Justin Morneau (11, Scheppers)|
|SF - Joe Mauer (2)|
|SH - Alexi Casilla (1)|
|RBI - Joe Mauer 2 (41), Justin Morneau 2 (37)|
|2-OUT RBI - Joe Mauer (11), Justin Morneau 2 (10)|
|SB - Ben Revere (17, 2nd base off Perez/Torrealba)|
|CS - Darin Mastroianni (2, 2nd base by Perez/Torrealba)|
|Team LOB - 8|
|DP - Dozier-Casilla-Morneau|
|PB - Drew Butera (2)|
|Francisco Liriano (W,3-7)||6.2||5||1||1||6||6||0||5.08|
|Jared Burton (H,13)||1.1||0||0||0||1||1||0||2.62|
|Pitches-Strikes - Francisco Liriano 109-58, Jared Burton 18-12, Glen Perkins 11-8|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Francisco Liriano 8-5|
|Batters Faced - Francisco Liriano 30, Jared Burton 5, Glen Perkins 4|
|Ian Kinsler, 2B||3||0||0||0||2||0||2||.274|
|Elvis Andrus, SS||3||0||0||0||2||1||2||.295|
|Josh Hamilton, LF||2||0||0||0||0||0||2||.314|
|a- Leonys Martin, PH-CF||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||.207|
|b- Brandon Snyder, PH-RF||2||0||0||0||0||1||3||.296|
|Adrian Beltre, 3B||4||1||1||0||0||1||3||.324|
|Michael Young, DH||3||0||1||0||1||0||0||.266|
|Nelson Cruz, RF-LF||3||0||2||1||1||0||0||.261|
|Mike Napoli, 1B||3||0||0||0||1||1||4||.230|
|Yorvit Torrealba, C||4||0||0||0||0||3||5||.216|
|Craig Gentry, CF-RF^CF||4||0||2||0||0||1||0||.348|
|a-flied out for Hamilton in the 5th|
|b-struck out for Martin in the 7th|
|2B - Nelson Cruz (19, Liriano)|
|RBI - Nelson Cruz (51)|
|Team LOB - 11|
|DP - Napoli|
|E - Josh Hamilton (5, Dropped fly), Mike Napoli (5, Dropped fly)|
|Martin Perez (L,1-1)||6||6||4||2||3||3||0||6.00|
|IBB - Willingham by Martin Perez|
|HBP - Revere (by Martin Perez)|
|WP - Martin Perez (3)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Martin Perez 106-67, Tanner Scheppers 10-8, Yoshinori Tateyama 15-9, Michael Kirkman 14-10|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Martin Perez 7-9, Yoshinori Tateyama 1-0|
|Batters Faced - Martin Perez 29, Tanner Scheppers 4, Yoshinori Tateyama 3, Michael Kirkman 4|
|Attendance - 47240|
|Game Time - 2:58|
|Temperature - 98|
|Umpires - Home - Eric Cooper, First Base - Marty Foster, Second Base - Chris Conroy, Third Base - Jeff Kellogg|