MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Pitching, fielding, baserunning and timely hits. That all fell into place for the surging Texas Rangers this weekend.
Just like the fastball Glen Perkins left over the middle for Josh Hamilton.
Hamilton’s two-run homer in the eighth capped a three-run inning for the Rangers and set up Joe Nathan for the save against his former team in a 4-3 victory on Sunday over the Twins, their first series sweep in Minnesota since 1999.
“I’m not trying to do too much. It’s `do what the situation asks for,”‘ said Hamilton, who leads the American League with 16 hits and is tied at the top with four home runs.
Perkins (0-1) walked Ian Kinsler to start the eighth, and Elvis Andrus followed with a triple to bring the Rangers within one. Then Hamilton hit the first pitch he saw from Perkins an estimated 449 feet into the upper deck above right field.
“He’s locked in. He’s doing everything. He’s using all the fields. He’s not missing mistakes. He’s playing tremendous defense. We certainly needed that big hit he gave us today, and that’s what he’s been doing for us,” manager Ron Washington said.
Hamilton is 6 for 12 in his career with two homers and five RBIs against Perkins.
“That’s what they do when you make a mistake, and he did what he should’ve done with that,” Perkins said.
The Rangers won their fourth in a row and raised their AL-best record to 8-2. The Twins have the worst mark in the league at 2-7.
Robbie Ross (2-0) struck out three in relief of Neftali Feliz over two scoreless innings for his second win in as many days. Then Nathan pitched a perfect ninth for his third save in four tries with his new team.
“We’ve got an unbelievable team that can hit, get runs whenever it seems like they want to,” Ross said. “It’s pretty cool. It makes pitching a lot easier.”
The Twins stretched their lead to 3-1 after a triple by Denard Span — who is 10 for 18 in his last four games — and a single by Jamey Carroll. Joe Mauer walked, but Ross retired three in a row.
“We thought we had a pretty good opportunity there, but the kid made some pitches and got us out,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Then in the eighth, Span started with a single but Carroll popped his bunt attempt up and Mauer grounded into a double play.
Feliz, the converted closer who joined the rotation to replace C.J. Wilson and make room for Nathan this season, has made the transition look relatively smooth. He retired the first 10 batters he faced and got Justin Morneau to ground into an inning-ending double play with runners at first and second in the fourth. The Twins lead the major leagues by grounding into 13 double plays this year.
Texas starters have yet to drop a decision, and their 2.42 collective ERA is the best in the league.
“Just because we won a series doesn’t mean we’re going to stop on the last day,” Kinsler said. “We want to make sure we continue to play good baseball. Our pitchers did a heck of a job today to keep us in that game and not let it get out of hand and giving our offense a chance.”
Clete Thomas, a waiver claim the day after being let go by Detroit, hit a two-run homer off Feliz in the fifth to give the Twins the lead. Then in the top of the sixth, Michael Young doubled down the right-field line with two outs and Adrian Beltre on first. Thomas put his relay right on target, and second baseman Alexi Casilla threw a strike, too, to get Beltre at the plate.
Liam Hendriks, who hadn’t pitched yet because of food poisoning in Baltimore, gave up seven hits without a walk in six innings for his first start of the season for the Twins. Mike Napoli’s homer in the fifth was the only run allowed by the 23-year-old Australian right-hander, who struck out four.
Napoli, playing first base for Mitch Moreland, who missed his second straight game because of an abscessed tooth, was 2 for 20 this season before that.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)