September 1, 2013

Twins frustrate Rangers again, take series

A good start for Texas turns bad as lowly Minnesota takes two out of three.

This isn’t the type of series the Texas Rangers expected after their road sweep of Seattle in which they knocked around Felix Hernandez in the finale.

After all, the Minnesota Twins were coming to town and had lost six of their past seven. The Twins’ first two starters entered with 5-plus ERAs. and Sunday’s starter Kevin Correia had only one win in his past seven starts.

Numbers, though, don’t always tell the story.

The Rangers’ bats, as they’ve been prone to do all season, went silent over the weekend, and Correia and the Twins polished off a 4-2 victory in the series finale to leave Rangers Ballpark by taking two of three.

The Rangers combined to score six runs over the series, and went 1 for 15 with runners in scoring position. The lone hit in those situations came from Leonys Martin, who delivered a walk-off single Saturday.

“It was a frustrating series,” second baseman Ian Kinsler said. “We didn’t do what we wanted to do and that’s it. It’s over with and time to move on.”

The Rangers next move on to Oakland for a pivotal series against the A’s, and will open it with a one-game lead in the American League West. It shouldn’t be hard to forget about the Twins’ series that ended with a dud.

It started off not too badly for the Rangers. Mitch Moreland led off the third inning with a solo homer and 1-0 lead, and Travis Blackley opened with four scoreless innings.

But Blackley ran into trouble and bad luck in the fifth.

Chris Colabello led off with a single, and Blackley appeared to induce a double-play grounder by Clete Thomas. An errant throw to first by Jurickson Profar, however, produced only one out and allowed Thomas to reach second.

A sliding Colabello made contract with Profar during the throw, but Profar said: “That’s no excuse. I should make a good throw. I should make that play.”

Josmil Pinto then drove in Thomas with a double to left, and Pinto scored on an unconventional ground-rule double by Doug Bernier, who saw his pop-up fall inside the right-field line and bounce into the stands.

Alex Presley followed with a soft liner to left that scored Bernier, and ended Blackley’s day after 81 pitches.

“I kept trying to stick to the game plan, trying to get them to hit it, and it kind of fell their way,” Blackley said. “Just more disappointed that I couldn’t go deeper. They made me work pretty good today.”

Neftali Feliz entered to make his 2013 debut, got out of the fifth and worked a scoreless sixth in one of the Rangers’ few highlights of the day. Feliz said it felt “great” to be back on the mound, and is looking forward to helping the team down the stretch.

The Twins, meanwhile, went on to extend their lead to 4-1 in the eighth. Presley scored on an infield single by Josh Willingham as Kinsler tried to make a play, but his throw to first was late and wide of the bag.

The Rangers’ offense couldn’t overcome that deficit.

Correia, who shut out the Rangers over eight innings on April 28, continued his dominance against them. The Rangers had a few chances, but failed to capitalize.

After Moreland homered to start the third, Geovany Soto doubled and moved to third on a groundout by Martin. But Profar struck out swinging and Kinsler popped out to end the threat. A few more opportunities were ruined by double plays in the fourth and seventh.

Correia exited after the seventh, and pinch-hitter A.J. Pierzynski had a one-out solo homer in the eighth to make it a 4-2 game. Martin followed with a single, but that inning ended on groundouts by Profar and Kinsler.

How to explain the offensive struggles in the series?

“I wish I could explain it,” manager Ron Washington said. “This series here you’ve just got to explain it by how the Minnesota Twins pitched. They pitched well against us.”

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