Nick Punto scores on wild pitch in 10th as Minnesota Twins beat Texas Rangers 2-1

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Nick Punto has been waiting for a chance to celebrate all season. After a vote of confidence from his manager, Punto got his chance Friday night.

Punto scored on a wild pitch with nobody out in the 10th inning to lift the Minnesota Twins to a 2-1 win over the Texas Rangers.

After striking out with two runners on in the top of the 10th and two outs, Marlon Byrd misplayed a shallow fly ball from Punto, and the error allowed Punto to make it all the way to third on what should have been a single.

With Joe Mauer at the plate, reliever Jamey Wright (3-5) bounced a pitch at the plate that got past catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Punto dashed home to end the game.

With the game tied and the bases loaded with two outs in the seventh, Gardenhire elected to stick with the struggling Punto at the plate instead of pinch hitting for the .203 hitter. Punto struck out, but said the decision made him confident going into extra innings.

“It’s been a tough year for me offensively,” Punto said. “For (Gardenhire) to have that kind of faith in me, it’s just nice to see that kind of confidence.”

Matt Guerrier (2-4) got the win after pitching one inning and allowing two hits.

Twins starter Carlos Silva notched another no-decision despite giving up only one run and five hits in seven innings.

His counterpart, Kason Gabbard, had the same tough luck. The Rangers rookie failed to notch his first road win despite six-plus solid innings.

Byrd, a veteran on a team loaded with youngsters, said he got caught between diving and laying off on Punto’s bloop in the 10th.

“It was a ball I was going after I thought I could dive for and get the catch and get the out,” Byrd said. “I went hard after it and when I realized it was going to drop I tired to put my body in front of it and it kicked off and got by me.”

Just as frustrating were the missed offensive opportunities for the Rangers, including Byrd, who went 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position.

“We had our chances,” he said. “I had two chances and I didn’t come through. I’ve been coming through for this team all year so I put it on my shoulders. I have to drive in one run tonight.”

The Twins took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Rondell White’s groundout to short scored Justin Morneau.

Saltalamacchia tied it in the third with his first home run since being traded to the Rangers from the Braves on July 31, a 406-foot blast that landed in the right-field upper deck.

Silva faced Saltalamacchia with runners on first and second and two outs in the seventh. He fanned him on three pitches and pumped his fist in celebration, yelling on his way back to the dugout.

It was Silva’s fourth consecutive outing where he lasted at least seven innings. But the Twins have scored only eight runs in those games, resulting in just one win.

“I’ve been working on all of my pitches,” Silva said. “Everybody says I’m a sinker ball pitcher, and I know I’m a sinker ball pitcher, but now I’ve been able to throw two other pitches and that’s helped.”

Gabbard matched Silva most of the night, rebounding from his last outing which was cut short after 1 1-3 innings because of a sore left forearm.

Gabbard said the forearm still isn’t 100 percent, but didn’t effect his performance.

“We did all we could to get me ready for this start,” he said. “I love to pitch and I love to win and obviously things didn’t turn out our way.”

Gabbard entered the game 0-1 with a 6.30 ERA on the road this season, but yielded only one run on five hits through 6 2-3 innings against the Twins.

But the Rangers blew an opportunity to take the lead in the ninth when Twins closer Joe Nathan struck out Saltalamacchia with a runner on third to end the inning.

On the game-deciding wild pitch, Texas manager Ron Washington said the catcher should have tried to block the ball instead of catching it.

“Once again, it’s just a mistake we made right there in that inning where we couldn’t afford it and it ended up hurting us,” Washington said.

Notes

The Twins donated $100,000 to the Shane Reardon memorial fund before Friday’s game. Shane is the late son of Jeff Reardon, the closer on Minnesota’s 1987 World Series team. Shane died of a drug overdose in February of 2004 and the fund established in his name assists families dealing with loved ones addicted to drugs or alcohol. … A line-drive foul off the bat of Ian Kinsler hit a young fan in the head in the third inning. The fan was sitting behind the Twins’ dugout and walked out of the stadium under his own power after being looked at by medical staff.

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