Joe Mauer had a new power partner Tuesday night, and the combination helped the Minnesota Twins spoil Ivan Rodriguez‘s return to the Texas Rangers.
With AL RBI leader Justin Morneau sidelined by an ear infection, Mauer homered twice and Delmon Young had a tying two-run double and a go-ahead two-run homer to lead the Twins past the Rangers 9-6.
Minnesota piled up 12 hits and eight runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings as part of a rally from a 5-0 deficit.
“To come back like we did, hopefully we can gain some momentum from it,” said Mauer, whose team snapped a three-game losing streak. “The guys kept at it and we put up enough runs to win.”
Minnesota’s late-inning offensive surge must have seemed all too familiar to Rodriguez. The 14-time All-Star catcher watched from the bench after accepting a trade earlier in the day from Houston. He returned to his original franchise seven years after leaving in the wake of three consecutive last-place finishes marked by some of the worst pitching in baseball.
These Rangers have been different, stalking AL ERA leader Seattle while surging to the lead in the wild-card race. Tuesday night’s loss dropped Texas into a tie with Boston for the wild-card lead.
Scott Feldman was working on another one of those strong Texas pitching performances, but he let the game get away in the sixth. It was the largest blown lead of the season for the Rangers.
The trouble started in the fourth inning when Mauer hit the first of his two leadoff homers. It was one of four extra-base hits against Feldman, who had allowed nothing but singles in his first three August starts. In the sixth, four singles by the Twins preceded Young’s tying two-run double.
“I was probably just a little too predictable with some of my pitches,” Feldman said. “I just couldn’t really get a rhythm going.”
The Twins fell behind again briefly before taking the lead for good in the seventh.
Mauer started the decisive inning with a tying home run off Jason Jennings, the 25th homer for Mauer and part of a 3 for 5 night that kept his major league-leading average at .380.
“Mauer’s amazing,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He’s putting some great swings on it. We’ve run out of things to say. He’s playing Little League baseball in the big leagues where everything’s a hit. It’s incredible.”
Brendan Harris, who replaced Jason Kubel after Kubel fouled a pitch off his left knee in the first inning, followed Mauer’s second homer with a single. Two outs later, Young’s drive off Jennings (2-4) bounced off the top of the right-center field wall into the Rangers bullpen for an 8-6 Twins lead.
“That was my mistake for letting (Mauer) get to me,” Jennings said. “The one to Young, I was just trying to get ahead.”
The Rangers had retaken the lead 6-5 on a strange sequence in the sixth. With runners on first and second, Michael Young hit a dribbler to the right of the mound, and Twins reliever Philip Humber flipped the ball toward a vacated third base. The ball rolled to the wall behind the bag, allowing Omar Vizquel to score. Jesse Crain escaped further damage by getting Marlon Byrd on a flyout with the bases loaded.
The key out against Byrd led to Crain (4-4) getting the win, and Joe Nathan pitched a scoreless ninth for his 30th save. It was his first save opportunity in August.
Ian Kinsler hit a three-run homer for Texas, and speedy leadoff hitter Julio Borbon went 3 for 4 with four steals, giving him nine hits and seven steals in three starts since Friday.
Carl Pavano gave up five earned runs in four innings, but that was quite a bit better than his only other appearance in Arlington. Pitching for Cleveland the first week of the season, he gave up nine runs in one inning of a 12-8 loss to the Rangers.
Morneau, the team leader with 28 homers and 94 RBIs, will continue to take medication and is day-to-day. … Rangers OF Nelson Cruz went 0 for 3 with a strikeout for Oklahoma City in a 5-0 loss to Colorado Springs, which had four pitchers combine on a no-hitter. It was the second no-hitter in five days in Oklahoma City. … The Rangers had six steals three days after they set a club record with eight against Boston. … Twins RHP Jesse Crain has thrown 18 scoreless innings in 14 career appearances against the Rangers. … Rangers 1B Hank Blalock had his fourth triple, a career high.
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