ARLINGTON, Texas – Donovan Solano went 4-for-5 on Saturday, blasting a home run and giving the Twins a lead with a two-run single. And that may not have been the veteran infielder's most important contribution.
Solano topped his big night at the plate with an all-out sprint into shallow right field in the eighth inning to snag, with his back to the infield and the go-ahead run at third base, Ezequiel Duran's popup. The play kept the game tied, and the Twins went on to beat the Rangers 9-7 in 10 innings at raucous Globe Life Field.
"It's a blessing to catch that ball," Solano said.
Carlos Correa and Max Kepler each provided run-scoring singles in the 10th inning against the Rangers' 100-mph specialist Aroldis Chapman to earn the Twins' fifth victory in six meetings with Texas this season.
Minnesota's five-game lead over Cleveland, which rallied for a second consecutive night to beat Tampa Bay, remained intact. The Twins' appreciation for the contributions of their 35-year-old utility man, however, may have reached a season high.
"To be able to leave it at one run [allowed that inning] after bases loaded, nobody out — that was huge," said Emilio Pagán, rescued by that catch. "That was really cool. Solano made a hell of a play. Great play, great player. Glad we have him."
Especially considering that Solano wasn't sure he'd be healthy enough to play. He sat out of Friday's game with a cold that had him feeling lousy, and went straight to the hotel after the game to rest, knowing that the Twins would be facing a lefthander, Jordan Montgomery, on Saturday.
Turns out, four hits are a pretty effective medicine.
"[Jorge] Polanco told me that he wants the type of cold I had yesterday," Solano said through interpreter Mauricio Ortiz. "He was like, 'Give it to me, too!'"
The Twins trailed 4-0 when Solano launched a 2-2 cutter from Montgomery into the second deck in left field, his fifth home run of the season. An inning later, he ended Montgomery's night by becoming the sixth consecutive Twin to reach base, all with two outs, in a five-run rally. Ryan Jeffers stroked an RBI single and Michael A. Taylor a two-run double to bring the Twins within a run, and Solano capped the outburst with a sharp ground ball into left field, scoring the tying and go-ahead runs.
The Twins kept the Rangers from scoring again until the eighth inning, when Pagán suffered that self-inflicted blown lead, his fifth of the season. The righthander threw only three strikes to the first three hitters he faced — Nathaniel Lowe, Adolis Garcia and Mitch Garver — loading the bases on walks.
Robbie Grossman then lifted a long fly ball to center, scoring Lowe on the sacrifice fly to tie the game 6-6. But the Rangers could not take the lead, thanks to Solano's hustle on a popup to right that Kepler could not reach. Solano stuck out his glove and somehow reached the ball, forcing the runners to hold their bases. Pagán then struck out J.P. Martinez to end the threat.
"I thought Kep had it, but at the last second, I saw he wasn't going to get there in time," Solano said. "I just stuck out my glove and looked up for the ball."
Pagán's was the only real hiccup for an otherwise stellar night by the Twins' bullpen, which has not allowed the American League's highest-scoring team to record another earned run against it in the last 18 innings. Eight relievers combined to hold Texas, the only AL team to score 400 runs in its home park this year, to four hits, all of them singles.
With the help of MLB's courtesy runner rule in extra innings, the Rangers did manage to score against Jhoan Duran in the 10th inning, but the Twins closer dropped a perfectly placed curveball over the outside corner to whiff pinch hitter Josh Smith and finish off his 24th save of the season.
"I just can't say enough about the bullpen. It's just unbelievable what they're doing right now," said starter Dallas Keuchel, whose own night — five runs allowed, including two long home runs, in just 3⅓ innings, snapping his 11-inning scoreless streak — was a disappointment. "We've got guys that know how to pitch. We're kind of showing our grit right now."