Blalock’s pinch-hit infield single drove in the winning run in the ninth inning, giving the Rangers a 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins.
Rod Barajas reached on catcher’s interference to load the bases and Blalock, held out of the starting lineup by manager Buck Showalter because he was in a 13-for-63 slump, hit a dribbler on a 1-2 pitch that popped out of the glove of shortstop Jason Bartlett as Nevin crossed the plate.
“I got behind in the count and I was in a defensive mode,” Blalock said. “I was just trying to put the ball in play and luckily it was soft enough. It doesn’t matter what kind of hit—a squibber, a double—as long as we get the ‘W’.”
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire had his infield playing a little farther in than double-play depth, and Bartlett didn’t have enough time to make a play.
“You’re playing in between so if he hits the ball hard you have a chance to turn a double play,” Gardenhire said. “But he hit a little topper that you’re not going to be able to do much with.”
The catcher’s interference ruling turned out to be a key play, with Barajas’ bat barely nicking the glove of Twins catcher Joe Mauer for an error.
“You’d love to get a hit in that situation, but loading the bases with Hank Blalock at the plate is a good option,” Barajas said.
Doug Brocail (5-2) pitched a scoreless ninth for the win.
Crain allowed one run and three hits in 1 1-3 innings.
Rangers starter Chris Young gave up three hits in seven shutout innings and left with a 1-0 advantage, but Texas’ bullpen couldn’t hold the lead.
The Twins tied it at 1 in the eighth off Erasmo Ramirez when Bartlett singled, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on Mauer’s single.
Young struck out six and walked two in a duel with reigning AL Cy Young winner Johan Santana.
Santana gave up one run and three hits in seven innings. He struck out six— increasing his major league-leading total to 195—and walked three.
“I knew it was going to be a low-scoring game because of his track record,” Young said.
“It’s been our Achilles’ heel all year long,” Gardenhire said. “We have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball and we just can’t support them offensively.”
Young retired 11 straight until Lew Ford led off the fifth with a double.
“(Young) teetered a bit in the first, then found his step,” Showalter said. “He got better as the game went on. His best innings were his last two.”
Santana set down eight consecutive Rangers from the second through the fifth before Texas broke through for a 1-0 lead on Michael Young’s RBI single.
Barajas singled and went to second on Gary Matthews Jr.’s walk. Right fielder Jones fielded Young’s single and fired toward the plate in an effort to cut down the slow-footed Barajas, but first baseman Justin Morneau cut off Jones’ throw, had trouble getting the ball out of his glove, and his throw to the plate was too late.
The game started with temperatures in the low 90s after several days in triple-digits. … Hunter Wendelstedt was scheduled to be the third base umpire but bypassed the game to return to his home in New Orleans in anticipation of Hurricane Katrina. The game went on with three umpires. … Mark Teixeira of the Rangers went 0-for-3 to end his 12-game hitting streak. …Texas starters have a 1.00 ERA in the first six games of the current homestand and haven’t allowed a run in 18 innings over the last three games. …The Twins have scored one run in four of Santana’s last six starts.