MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – With Rangers starter Yu Darvish unavailable, Scott Baker took his spot and held the Twins at bay. Unfortunately, Texas’ normally rock-solid closer couldn’t do the same.
Joakim Soria bobbled a slow-bouncing ball hit by Minnesota’s Danny Santana to the left of the mound with two outs and the bases loaded in the ninth inning, allowing the winning run to score in the Twins’ 4-3 victory over the Rangers on Tuesday night.
“He’s human,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said after Soria (1-2) took his first blown save in nine chances. “There’s no perfection in the game of baseball. The guy has done everything we’ve asked him to do and tonight he just didn’t get it done.”
The day began badly for the Rangers when Darvish, their ace, was scratched from his scheduled start with stiffness in his neck. Baker filled in admirably, giving up two runs on three hits over six innings, and Chris Gimenez hit a tiebreaking two-out RBI single in the sixth off Phil Hughes.
With Soria on in the ninth and Texas leading 3-2, the Twins ended their four-game losing streak by patching together two runs.
Oswaldo Arcia hit a one-out double off the wall in right-center, just a few feet shy of where he homered off Baker in the second inning, and Eduardo Nunez tied the game with a two-out single.
Then Nunez kept the rally alive with some nifty running.
He moved up when right fielder Alex Rios’ throw home was up the line. On a fielder’s choice grounder to Adrian Beltre, Nunez stopped short of the third baseman’s glove, scooted right and circled around to the bag to avoid the tag.
“Somehow now we’ve got a new rule that you can go to left field and come back to third,” Beltre said, sarcastically. “I should’ve known that.”
Nunez scored the winning run when Santana ended the game with the softest of contact.
“We had a couple plays in there that we should make, and the last one by myself, I just blew it,” Soria said. “It was a spinning ball, a lot of spin in there, and by the time I got the ball it just spilled out of my glove and I dropped it.”
Glen Perkins (2-0) pitched a scoreless ninth for the victory, stranding Rios after a leadoff triple that Santana, normally a shortstop, appeared to misplay in center field and couldn’t catch after getting twisted around.
Hughes had his winning streak stopped at five. Over his last five turns, he had a 1.08 ERA and a 27-0 strikeout-walk ratio.
Aaron Hicks saved Hughes from a huge deficit by sprinting to the warning track and snagging the ball with a perfectly timed leap above and beyond the center field wall to steal a three-run homer from Donnie Murphy, who settled for a sacrifice fly. Rougned Odor followed with an RBI double to get one of those runs back.
Shortstop Eduardo Escobar and left fielder Josh Willingham let a ball by Mitch Moreland bounce between them for a single to start the sixth.
After giving up six runs in six innings in his only other start this season, last Friday at Detroit, Baker was supposed to resume a role as a long reliever. But he was in control the entire night.
Baker was a second-round draft pick by the Twins in 2003 who spent five years in their rotation, including a 15-win season in 2009, but he developed elbow trouble and needed Tommy John ligament-replacement surgery in 2012.
The Rangers, who picked up Baker at the end of spring training, are his third team in two seasons.
“It’s not always easy when you walk into a clubhouse and the first thing you hear is that you might be starting, but you embrace the opportunity and go out and do the best you can,” said Baker, who joked that he made it a point not to look into the home dugout during the game. “For the most part, that was the case.”
Baker didn’t allow a walk and struck out four. He surrendered an RBI double to Joe Mauer with two outs in the third before retiring the last 10 batters he faced.
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