Joe Saunders tossed five scoreless innings Wednesday in his first start after seven weeks on the disabled list, and four relievers made Luis Sardinas’ seventh-inning RBI single stand in a 1-0 victory over Minnesota.
Joakim Soria delivered his ninth save of the season the night after blowing his first in a 4-3 loss. He followed Shawn Tolleson (1-1), Neal Cotts and Jason Frasor to finish off the Rangers’ baseball-leading 10th shutout.
But it wasn’t easy.
Saunders’ first pitch was turned down the left-field line by Brian Dozier for a double, but he got only a far as third base as Saunders retired the next three batters in a 13-pitch inning.
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The 32-pitch second inning didn’t nearly as smoothly, though it, too, was a scoreless frame. The Twins put runners at second and third with one out, but Saunders snagged an Eduardo Escobar bouncer to the mound and caught Josh Willingham too far off third base.
But Saunders walked No. 9 hitter Danny Santana to fill the bases and survived Dozier’s flyball to the warning track in left-center that fell into the glove of Leonys Martin to end the inning.
The Twins collected back-to-back singles in the third, but Saunders got Kurt Suzuki on a flyout to center.
Then, Saunders settled into a groove. He struck out the side in a perfect fourth inning and worked around a two-out single in the fifth, finishing with 97 pitches.
Tolleson worked a scoreless sixth, and took a 1-0 lead into the seventh after Sardinas delivered Leonys Martin with a two-out single in top half of the inning. Tolleson then retired two of the first three Twins, but needed Cotts to strike out Joe Mauer to end the threat with the tying run at second base.