Twins make hits count against Rangers

The Sports Xchange

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins had been missing clutch hitting in their series with the Texas Rangers, but they found plenty on Saturday in a 7-2 win at Target Field.

Both teams received decent starting pitching, but the Twins were able to find the timely hits with runners in scoring position that the Rangers could not. The Twins outhit Texas 9-8.

"(It was) well-pitched by our side," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "(Pedro) Hernandez was fantastic. He did exactly what had been asked of him and got us through the first five innings. A very nice performance by him."

The Rangers fell victim to some great Minnesota defense that took away several hits and their own aggressive baserunning, which shortened an inning and led to the seventh out on the bases in the series.

Rangers starter Derek Holland deserved a better fate, going seven innings, giving up three earned runs and five hits, one walk and six strikeouts. But the Twins got to him with some big hits in the sixth inning and built on their early lead.

"He's been pitching well for us," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "The results aren't there, but he's certainly been pitching well. And I thought he did a good job today. Just one pitch up to (Josh) Willingham sort of put the game out of reach the way we were swinging the bats today."

Brian Dozier singled to center and scored ahead of Willingham, who hit his second home run of the series into the left-field porch for a 3-0 lead. The home run gave Willingham 25 home runs at Target Field -- the most by any player there.

"He can swing it," Gardenhire said of Willingham. "He knows how to jerk the ball. And in this ballpark, the left-field seats are the way to go. The ball flies there and he can do that. He goes up there on a mission to drive the baseball. He's a powerful young man and we all see what he can do when you make a mistake."

Holland returned to the mound in the seventh and the Twins manufactured another run with a walk, Eduardo Esocabar's second hit of the game and a fielder's choice.

In the eighth, Willingham singled and stole second on a pickoff attempt. The suddenly fleet-of-foot Willingham then ran through a stop sign at third base and scored on an infield hit when the throw home was wide of the plate. Aaron Hicks doubled down the line (the first extra-base hit of his career) and knocked in two more runs.

"I think he just wanted to fill something on his stat sheet," Gardenhire said of Willingham's stolen base. "He didn't have any attempts and he didn't have any stolen bases, so he said he thought he could get him. Man on a mission out there."

"That one lost me," he said of Willingham running through the third base coach's stop sign. "We weren't giving any signs. So I don't know. You need to talk to him. I said my piece and he said it won't happen again and we're good with that."

The Twins opened the scoring (a rare occurrence for them this season) in the third when Hicks hit a sharp grounder to first and Mitch Moreland mishandled it. Hicks moved to third on Escobar's single to left and scored on Dozier's sacrifice fly to center field.

Hernandez, Minnesota's starter, kept the tough Rangers lineup off the scoreboard by scattering five hits in five innings. He was relieved in the sixth after 80 pitches, allowing no runs and one walk and getting three strikeouts.

"He threw a lot of off-speed stuff," Washington said. "I thought he threw a lot of pitches that were hittable. We just didn't swing the bats. We got hits. We just didn't swing the bats the way were capable today. Give him credit. He kept us off balance. Take nothing away from that kid, he went five innings and shut us out."

Hernandez was aided by some excellent defense. The Twins made two diving catches and picked Craig Gentry off first.

The Rangers spoiled the shutout with two runs in the ninth, but by that time the damage had already been done.

NOTES: Temperature was 73 degrees -- the second consecutive game in the 70s this season. Spring has finally arrived in Minnesota. ... The Rangers have been in one-run ballgames in four of their five games on this trip. They are 3-1 in those games. ... The Twins have allowed opponents to score the first run in 15 of 20 games this season -- they are 7-8 in those instances. ... The Rangers committed two errors on Friday against the Twins. They were the last team in baseball to not have a multi-error game. ... Coming into the game, the Twins starters have received 47 runs of support this season, which ranks as the fourth fewest in baseball.