The bookend homers by Kinsler, between his three strikeouts, gave the Rangers a 5-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Sunday night to snap a four-game losing streak.
“I knew it had a chance. I was just hoping for a little gust of wind to get it over the fence,” Kinsler said. “We needed to get that win.”
Jarrod Saltalamacchia(notes), who set up earlier runs with the first two sacrifice bunts of his career, led off the 12th with a single off Brian Duensing(notes) (0-1) and was bunted to second by Elvis Andrus(notes). R.A. Dickey(notes) then took over for the Twins, and instead of floating another knuckleball left a 1-2 fastball over the plate.
“It’s not good, no possible way that should happen and it did,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
“Of course I regret it. It was on me,” Dickey said. “It was poor. The pitch rested in my hand and I threw the wrong pitch. I cost us this one.”
Dustin Nippert(notes) (1-0) got out of a two-on, one-out jam in the 11th and had a 1-2-3 12th after four other relievers had already combined for six scoreless innings. C.J. Wilson(notes) struck out four in two perfect innings before giving way to Nippert.
“Those guys continued to grind all night,” manager Ron Washington said. “We executed fundamentals, scratched some runs, tied the game and then took it. … They know how bad we needed it and they fought for us. This could be the game to get us back on track.”
The win kept the Rangers, who led the AL West by as many as 5 1/2 games at the end of May, within a three games of the division-leading Los Angeles Angels. And it prevented Seattle from matching them for second place.
Kinsler put the Rangers up 1-0 when he hit his sixth leadoff homer of the season, and the 11th of his career to extend his own team record. He became the first player in Texas history to hit a leadoff homer and end the game with a homer, the team said, according to research by the Elias Sports Bureau.
After the leadoff homer, Kinsler struck out his next three at-bats, including the last outs of the fifth and seventh innings. Kinsler grounded out to start the 10th.
A passed ball by All-Star catcher Joe Mauer(notes), who appeared to be crossed up by starter Francisco Liriano(notes), allowed Byrd to score in the fifth. Byrd came home with the tying run two innings later on Andrus’ sac fly.
Nick Punto(notes) had his first homer of the season among his three hits for the Twins, who missed a chance to gain ground in the AL Central after Detroit and the Chicago White Sox both lost earlier Sunday.
Punto entered the game with a .203 average, and the light-hitting shortstop hadn’t hit a homer in 371 at-bats since Aug. 4. His one-out solo shot in the third off rookie left-hander Derek Holland(notes) barely cleared the 14-foot wall in left field to tie the game 1-1.
Minnesota loaded the bases an inning later and went ahead 3-1 when Denard
NOTES: Liriano struck out six before leaving with no outs in the seventh. … Umpires used video replay at Rangers Ballpark for the first time, taking a homer away from Andruw Jones(notes) in the fourth. Jones pulled a pitch down the left-field line, but even he apparently knew the ball was foul. He trotted around the bases only after third base umpire Brian O’Nora gave a late signal for a home run. Gardenhire immediately charged out of the dugout to argue. … Twins 3B Joe Crede(notes) sat out with a sprained right shoulder. He got hurt making a diving catch Friday, but started Saturday before coming out with he felt “tingling” in his right hand. … Texas LHP Matt Harrison(notes), out since May 26 because of left shoulder inflammation, threw about 67 pitches to live hitters Sunday. It was his second throwing session in four days. He will likely begin a rehab assignment Wednesday and could be back the first week of August.