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Twins Walk Off With Victory Over Rangers, 5-4

The Twins lost a lead late on Thursday night against the Texas Rangers, but they refused to give up, and were rewarded with a 5-4 victory when Alexi Casilla singled home the winning run in the bottom of the ninth.

Things got off to a rocky start for the Twins and starter Nick Blackburn, as he gave up a solo home run to Josh Hamilton with two out in the bottom of the first to give the Rangers an early 1-0 lead. The Twins got that run back in the bottom of the second, when Delmon Young led off the frame with a solo home run of his own, this one off of Rangers' starter Derek Holland.

The Twins took their first lead of the game in the bottom of the fifth. Rene Rivera and Matt Tolbert reached base to give the Twins runners on first and second with nobody out, but Ben Revere bunted into a fielder's choice that saw Rivera forced out at third, and Alexi Casilla grounded into a fielder's choice that saw Revere forced out at second. So, with runners on the corners and two out, Michael Cuddyer decided that he had seen quite enough, and blasted an offering from Holland over the wall in center field for a three-run homer, giving the Twins a 4-1 lead.

In the top of the sixth, Texas outfielder Josh Hamilton grounded one back to Blackburn, who threw wildly to first, allowing Hamilton to advance to second. After Michael Young struck out, Adrian Beltre singled to center to score Hamilton and make the score 4-2. After an error by Danny Valencia on a grounder by Nelson Cruz gave the Rangers runners on the corners, Mitch Moreland lifted a sacrifice fly to center to score Beltre and cut the Minnesota lead to 4-3.

Blackburn took the mound for the start of the eighth inning, and after retiring Beltre on a groundout, Nelson Cruz hit one that might not have come down yet, a solo blast that tied the game at four. Blackburn was then lifted for Jose Mijares, who allowed back-to-back singles to Moreland and Yorvit Torrealba, and was lifted for Alex Burnett. Burnett got a fielder's choice groundout from pinch-hitter Craig Gentry, and then hit Elvis Andrus with a pitch to load the bases. Ron Gardenhire then brought in left-hander Chuck James to face David Murphy, but Rangers' manager Ron Washington lifted Murphy for pinch-hitter Mike Napoli. However, James got Napoli to ground into a fielder's choice to Casilla at shortstop, and the threat was halted.

After James and Jim Hoey combined to set the Rangers down in the top of the ninth, Luke Hughes led off the bottom of the ninth with a ground rule double down the left field line. Brian Dinkelman pinch-hit for Rivera, and went down on strikes against Rangers' reliever Mark Lowe. After Matt Tolbert was able to work Lowe for a walk, 206-year old left-hander Arthur Rhodes came into the game to face Ben Revere. Revere flew out to left for the Twins' second out, and Casilla went up to bat against Rhodes. Casilla lined a 2-1 offering from Rhodes into left field deep enough for Hughes to come around and score, and the Twins had their seventh victory in their last eight ball games.

Hoey wound up getting the victory for the Twins, his first win of the year, raising his record to 1-2. Lowe took the loss from the Rangers, evening his record at 1-1. Neither starter figured into the decision, as Holland allowed four runs on eight hits in 7.1 innings, striking out ten in the process, while Blackburn allowed four runs on ten hits in 7.1 innings, striking out six. Each pitcher allowed two home runs on the evening.

The same two teams will get together at Target Field on Friday night, with first pitch scheduled for 7:10 PM. The Rangers will send left-hander C.J. Wilson (6-3, 3.03 ERA) to the mound, while the Twins will give the ball to lefty Brian Duensing (3-5, 4.73 ERA).

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.