Questionable decision making in the top half of the sixth inning followed by reliever Ryan Pressly (2-5) allowing a pair of runs in the bottom half doomed the Minnesota Twins to their 56th loss of the season at Globe Life Park as they dropped game two of the four-game series by a 6-5 margin on Friday night.
Twins center fielder Byron Buxton left the game in the first inning after crashing into the fence on a triple by Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor. And while Buxton had to be carted off the field, preliminary reports from reporters on the scene suggest that the 22-year-old suffered just a right knee contusion, and is day-to-day.
Twins starter Kyle Gibson was in trouble early, but rebounded to throw a respectable five innings with four earned runs, six strikeouts and three walks. For the second time in a row against the Rangers, Gibson was victimized by leadoff hitter Shin-Soo Choo. And while it wasn’t a leadoff home run like at Target Field on Sunday, Choo reached on a walk and came around on the Odor triple where Buxton was injured. Prince Fielder singled two batters later and the Rangers had a quick 2-0 lead.
The Twins returned fire in the next half inning, as Kennys Vargas doubled to center and switched places with Kurt Suzuki a batter later to cut the Rangers’ lead in half. Suzuki moved to third on a grounder from Eddie Rosario — who entered in center for Buxton — and scored when Eduardo Nunez reached on an infield single to tie the game.
Gibson settled down significantly in the second by striking out the side, but had to work through a bases loaded jam in the third before stranding them full with a strikeout of Jurickson Profar and a Nomar Mazara groundout. The Rangers pushed the lead back up to two runs in the fourth, as Elvis Andrus walked, stole second and scored on a Choo single. Choo picked up second on the throw, and scored on an Ian Desmond single to give the Rangers a 4-2 lead.
Again, the Twins wasted little time in returning fire, scoring three runs in the top of the fifth. Nunez singled, stole second and third, and was standing there after a Robbie Grossman walk when Miguel Sano strode to the plate. On the first pitch from Rangers starter Cole Hamels — facing the Twins for the second start in a row — Sano poked a 400-foot home run to left, his 14th of the season and his third since returning from the disabled list.
The home run seemed to unnerve Hamels, who got Brian Dozier to fly out, but then walked Max Kepler and Vargas before getting the gate with just one out in the fifth. After going just four innings at Target Field on Sunday, Hamels lasted just 4.1 at home against them, and his two shortest starts of the season have now come against the Twins.
Now staked to a 5-4 lead, Gibson cruised through the fifth 1-2-3 with Adrian Beltre, Fielder and Profar all putting the ball in play for outs. But that was it for Gibson, who racked up 98 pitches in just five innings before giving way to Pressly, who had been nails for the Twins in recent action.
Before Pressly entered, the Twins threw away a solid chance for insurance runs in the top half of the sixth. Rosario opened with a single to center, but was ultimately thrown out stealing — on his own reconnaissance, manager Paul Molitor told the media postgame — with Grossman up later in the inning. But before Grossman even came up, Nunez — who came into the game hitting a blistering .321/.349/.485 — bunted on his own, popping it up for an easy out recorded by pitcher Tony Barnette (6-3).
That’s been a troubling trend for Nunez of late, as he seems to be so insistent on low-percentage bunts despite being one of the team’s very best hitters. Nevertheless, Rosario was thrown out at second by Wilson, and Grossman closed out the inning with a strikeout looking.
Pressly, who came into the game having been used an AL-high 43 times, had thrown six straight scoreless appearances and had yet to give up a run in July. Since June 1, Pressly had an ERA of just 1.62 and had allowed opposing batters to hit just .213/.234/.279.
But if any of that was supposed to impress the Rangers — who saw Pressly not only twice in the series at Target Field but also Thursday night at home — it didn’t work, as Mazara rudely greeted him with a double to deep left to get the offense in business with the tying run in scoring position just four pitches into the inning. Andrus followed with a triple to right, and trotted home as catcher Bobby Wilson hit a first-pitch sac fly to right field to cap the scoring for not only the Rangers, but both teams with a 6-5 lead.
The rest of the Twins relief corps worked clean innings the rest of the way, as Taylor Rogers struck out the side to work around a double from Odor in the seventh and got Mazara out to start the eighth before giving way to Michael Tonkin, who got Andrus swinging and Wilson to fly to left.
Matt Bush threw a clean eighth for the Rangers, as Vargas doubled to deep right but was thrown out at third on a poor baserunning decision when Danny Santana grounded to short. That was followed by a Suzuki double play ball, as the Twins squandered another solid chance to tie the game.
Sam Dyson threw a perfect ninth for his 18th save.
- All five hits from Vargas since his recall have gone for extra bases (two home runs, three doubles).
- Former Twins right-hander Kyle Lohse will be added to the Rangers roster to make the start on Saturday. Lohse signed a minor league deal just in mid May, and made 10 starts at Triple-A Round Rock prior to the promotion (5.06 ERA, 6.3 K/9, 1.26 WHIP).
- Twins pitchers came into Friday’s action with a 2.53 ERA in July. Only Toronto (2.22) had a lower mark.
- The Twins fell to 3-2 against the Rangers this season with the loss. The Twins have a 39-19 advantage in runs scored in the season series.
- If the Twins can close out the Rangers series with a pair of wins in games three and four, they can match their win total in July (seven wins in 10 games) with how many games they won total in April (7-17).
- The Twins fell to 30-56 with the loss. Here’s what their last five records have been at the All Star break: 49-40 (2015), 44-50 (2014), 39-53 (2013), 36-49 (2012) and 41-48 (2011).