Twins 5, Rangers 2

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—On the way to the ballpark Saturday, A.J. Pierzynski had a feeling he would hit a homer. After all, everyone homers on their bobblehead day.

Pierzynski’s clairvoyance came true with a two-run drive in the third that backed Brad Radke, and the Minnesota Twins beat the Texas Rangers 5-2 to stay in a first-place tie in the AL Central.

“Denny (Hocking) and I drove in today and we talked about how everyone hits one on his bobblehead day,” said Pierzynski, who hadn’t homered since June 30. “That and I hadn’t hit one in a while made me feel pretty good.”

“But, it’s good I hit that home run because that’s the only runner I drove in,” said Pierzynski, who stranded four runners in his other three at bats.

Pierzynski’s third-inning shot was his most important at-bat and the one that his manager and teammates chose to focus on. He fouled off four two-strike pitches before getting one he could drive.

“A.J. can do those things because he battles his tail off,” manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Shannon Stewart went 3-for-5 with an RBI as the Twins won their fourth straight game and stayed even with Chicago atop the division. Minnesota improved to 31-17 since the All-Star break.

Shane Spencer drove in both runs for Texas, which has lost five straight road games and 10 of 15 games overall.

Radke (11-10) allowed two runs and five hits, while striking out four and walking none. He has won his last three decisions, although he was coming off his shortest outing of the year.

He had a no-decision but pitched 2 1-3 innings in the Twins’ 11-10 loss at Texas on Sunday.

“I knew he would come back strong,” Gardenhire said. “That’s the way Radke does it.”

Radke said that he wasn’t even thinking about that previous start.

“I was a little more angry at the 11 o’clock start,” Radke said, jokingly. “But, I had pretty good command of my fastball, and I had a good sinker today.”

LaTroy Hawkins pitched a scoreless eighth, and Eddie Guardado pitched the ninth for his 33rd save in 36 chances.

R.A. Dickey (8-7) walked three, struck out two and allowed five runs and six hits in 2 2-3 innings. He has allowed 16 earned runs over 12 2-3 innings in his last three starts.

“I’m at the point where I am in a little bit of a rut,” Dickey said. “I’ve got to change it around. What makes you a major league player is how you deal with adversity.”

Minnesota started the scoring when Jacque Jones led off the second inning with a single and came home on Torii Hunter’s hit, the Twins’ major league-leading 42nd triple. Two outs later, Stewart hit an RBI single to make it 2-0.

The Twins scored three runs in the third, highlighted by Pierzynski’s homer, and extended their lead to 5-0. Doug Mientkiewicz led off with a single and Matthew LeCroy walked before a balk by Dickey advanced the runners.

Jones followed with an RBI groundout and, after Hunter struck out, Pierzynski hit a 392-foot shot to right for his 10th homer.

“The game got a little bit away from him there,” manager Buck Showalter said of Dickey. “His split finger wasn’t working and he was working with a tight strike zone.”

Texas got to Radke in the fifth inning. Mark Teixeira singled and scored on Spencer’s RBI double. Texas added a run in the seventh on a two-out, RBI single by Spencer.

Hunter made a diving catch in the fourth inning on Hank Blalock’s sinking line drive, but afterward he had more to say about the early start time than his play.

“I don’t usually get up this early,” Hunter said. “There’s no time toreally think, you just wake up an play.”

Notes

The game started at 11:05 a.m. so the Metrodome could be converted to football for the University of Minnesota-Troy State game at 7:10 p.m. Due to the tight schedule, the Twins and Rangers would not have been permitted to start an inning after 2:30 p.m. … The previous Twins’ home game played at 11:05 a.m. on a Saturday was Eric Milton’s no-hitter vs. the Angels on Sept. 11, 1999. … Gardenhire said that Stewart is playing with a sore hamstring and will be evaluated before Sunday’s game. Stewart has been playing despite the pain because “he’s very excited about being in a pennant race,” according to Gardenhire. … The Rangers purchased the contract of INF-OF Jermaine Clark from Oklahoma of the Pacific Coast League and moved OF Kevin Mench from the 15- to the 60-day disabled list. … The last time Texas played an 11:05 game at the Metrodome was Sept. 13, 1986, when the Rangers hit a club-record sevenhomers in a 14-1 victory.

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