Minnesota erased a one-run deficit with two in the seventh inning, sending Derek Holland to a tough-luck loss and lifting the Twins to a 4-3 victory over the Rangers on Friday night at Target Field.
The loss knocked a half-game off the Rangers’ lead in the American League West with Oakland playing a late game. An A’s victory would leave the Rangers with a nine-game advantage.
Compounding matters is that Josh Hamilton left the game after a single in the eighth inning. The slugger, who was serving as the designated hitter, was felled by stiffness in his lower back and is day-to-day.
Holland was charged with four runs, though two of them scored after he left the game. Alexi Ogando and Matt Harrison each allowed an inherited runner to score.
Minnesota struck for a run in the first as Denard Span led off with a well-place grounder down the left-field line for a double and later scored on a Joe Mauer groundout.
The Rangers came right base, as Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz started the second with a single. Hamilton would score on a one-out sacrifice fly by Mitch Moreland.
Then, Matt Fox, who was making his major-league debut, and Holland settled in, allowing only a hit apiece through the fifth. Holland threw strikes and worked efficiently. After the Cruz single, Fox retired 11 of 12.
The Rangers finally hung another run on Fox in the sixth on a two-out single by David Murphy after Elvis Andrus had swiped second base.
Holland entered the sixth with only 60 pitches and a 2-1 lead, and he got Span to ground out to start the inning. But Orlando Hudson and Joe Mauer followed with singles and were at second and third with one out after Mauer took second on Borbon’s throw to third.
That was big, because a double play was no longer available. The next hitter, Michael Cuddyer, hit a grounder to second base that could have produced two outs, but instead it plated Hudson to knot the score.
Delmon Young was out on a deep flyball to end the inning.
But the Rangers gave Holland the lead right back at 3-2, as Ian Kinsler singled, went to second on a wild pitch, to third on a groundout by Mitch Moreland, and scored on a one-out squeeze bunt by Juilo Borbon.
Holland, though, couldn’t hold it. After getting the leadoff man, Danny Valencia singled and Jason Repko walked after being down 1-2 in the count. Ogando replaced Holland and allowed an RBI single to J.J. Hardy on an 0-2 count.
Harrison replaced Ogando and fared no better, allowing an RBI single to Span on his first pitch to snap the tie.