Joe Mauer hit his first home run of the season, and Jason Kubel's late double gave the Minnesota Twins plenty of breathing room, as the Twins took down the Texas Rangers by a final score of 7-2 at The Ballpark At Arlington on Wednesday night.
Mauer got his first home run of 2011 off of Rangers' starter Colby Lewis (10-8, 4.00 ERA), a solo blast to right field with two outs that gave the Twins a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning. That's how the score stayed until the top of the fourth, when Michael Cuddyer led off the frame with a solo home run of his own, this one to left-center to increase Minnesota's lead to 2-0.
After the Rangers cut the lead to 2-1 in the bottom of the fourth with an RBI groundout from Michael Young, Minnesota tacked on a couple more in the top of the fifth. Lewis quickly retired Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Ben Revere for the first two outs of the inning, but then Alexi Casilla doubled to right to keep the inning going. Mauer then went the opposite way for a single, scoring Casilla to make it 3-1. Mauer took second on the throw, and came around to score on Cuddyer's single to center to make it 4-1. Cuddyer then got caught up in a rundown that ended the inning.
Things stayed that way until the top of the ninth, when the Twins put together some more clutch two-out hits against Rangers' reliever Mark Lowe. Nishioka and Revere again went down to start the inning, and again Casilla doubled to keep the inning going. Going into second base, Casilla appeared to hurt himself, and was pinch-run for by Trevor Plouffe. After an intentional walk to Mauer, Lowe appeared to be out of the inning when he got Cuddyer to ground one towards Young, but an error on the Rangers' third baseman kept the inning going and loaded the bases. Jason Kubel made the Rangers pay by clearing the bases with a double, giving the Twins a very comfortable 7-1 cushion.
Brian Duensing (8-8, 4.35 ERA) was very solid for the Twins, allowing one run on seven hits in 6.2 innings of work. Matt Capps and Glen Perkins each got two-thirds of an inning of work in, and Anthony Swarzak came in to mop up in the bottom of the ninth. Swarzak did allow an RBI single to Yorvit Torrealba, but the Twins' lead was just too much as Minnesota won by the final score of 7-2.
With a loss by the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday, the Twins once again find themselves six games back in the American League Central division race. They will attempt to win their third straight when they conclude their series with the Rangers on Thursday night in Arlington, with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 PM Central time. The Twins will go with right-hander Scott Baker (8-5, 2.88 ERA) to try to win their third straight, while the Rangers will counter with left-hander Matt Harrison (8-7, 3.05 ERA).