After a two-month swoon, June has brought new life to this banged-up and once-bumbling bunch.
Casilla laced a single to left field to drive in the winning run with two outs in the ninth inning and lift the Twins to a 5-4 victory over the Texas Rangers on a windy, chilly Thursday night at Target Field.
For Casilla, suddenly one of the team’s hottest hitters, it was his fifth career “walk-off” hit. The most famous, of course, came in 2009 when he beat the Detroit Tigers in the 163rd game to break the tie in the American League Central and send the Twins to the playoffs.
“I love these situations. Myself, I just try to calm down, don’t get too excited,” Casilla said. “I’m looking for a good pitch to hit.”
“You get that feeling that he’s going to bang the ball somewhere. There’s a lot of different ways he can get a hit,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He put a nice swing on that one.”
Rangers starter Derek Holland(notes) gave up a solo shot in the second inning to Delmon Young(notes), just his second this season, and a three-run homer to Michael Cuddyer(notes) in the fifth to the back of the bullpen measured at 443 feet that made the grounds crew guys jump up to avoid getting hit.
“We’ve got some energy. We’ve got some life,” Cuddyer said.
Twins starter Nick Blackburn(notes) was hurt by two errors, one of them his, in a two-run sixth by the Rangers. He also gave up huge home runs to Josh Hamilton(notes) (an estimated 441 feet) and Nelson Cruz(notes) (450 feet), which tied the game with one out in the eighth.
Holland matched his career high with 10 strikeouts over 7 1-3 innings. He might’ve even avoided facing Cuddyer in the fifth, had second base umpire Paul Nauert not missed the tag shortstop Elvis Andrus(notes) made on Rene Rivera(notes) trying to retreat on a bouncer hit right at him.
Rivera was retired on the next play at third base when Adrian Beltre(notes) grabbed Ben Revere’s(notes) bunt and made a snap, off-balance throw to get the lead runner, but it’s impossible to determine how that inning would’ve developed had Rivera been out the first time. Rangers manager Ron Washington argued with Nauert for a while.
The Twins no longer have the worst mark in the majors, either, moving a half-game ahead of Houston. The Twins raised their record at home to a mere 7-15, on the heels of going 53-28 at Target Field last season.
Blackburn rebounded from a shortened start last week by tightness in his back, looking fine over 109 pitches five days later, save for the soaring and costly home runs by Hamilton and Cruz.
Blackburn’s ERA remains the best on Minnesota’s starting staff, 3.47, and he hasn’t lost since April 28. Blackburn struck out six and surrendered 10 hits and one walk in those 7 1-3 innings. Only two of the four runs were earned, though they were partially his fault, thanks to a too-high throw on Hamilton’s dribbler back to the mound leading off the sixth that paved the way for the Rangers to pull to 4-3.
Blackburn was most disgusted, though, in the eighth on his 1-0 changeup to Cruz. He whipped his body away from the field toward his dugout while Cruz jogged around the bases with his 15th homer. Young didn’t bother watching, either, as the ball soared into the third deck, a half-dozen rows up.
The Twins are just glad they have a better performance to put out there.
“Lately, it’s been fun to watch,” Casilla said.
Said Gardenhire: “You feel like you have a chance in ballgames again, and that’s the atmosphere you’re looking for.”
NOTES: Washington said 2B Ian Kinsler(notes), out on paternity leave following the birth of his son, would return to the team for Saturday’s game. … The Rangers are in a stretch with 17 out of 20 games on the road. … The Twins started a portion of the schedule with 31 of the next 41 games at home. They’ve played the fewest home games in the majors. … The Twins won for the first time in 26 games this year when being out-hit.