By Joe Christensen
Justin Morneau hit another home run, Boof Bonser survived five rocky innings, and Joe Nathan earned his first save since May 5 — the hard way – as the Twins defeated Texas 5-3 on Wednesday afternoon at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Nathan gave up a leadoff single to Mark Teixeira to start the ninth inning. Victor Diaz grounded into a double play on the next pitch, but it provided another scary moment for the Twins. Diaz broke his bat, and the barrel went twirling toward the mound, striking Nathan on the right calf. He dropped his glove and hobbled around the infield. Manager Ron Gardenhire, pitching coach Rick Anderson and trainer Rick McWane went to the mound before Nathan waved them off.
Then, Torii Hunter had a mishap. With two outs in the ninth, he tried tracking a long fly ball from Nelson Cruz toward the right-center field wall, but the ball bounced off his glove for a double. Nathan walked Ian Kinsler, and Sammy Sosa came to the plate as a pinch hitter, representing the potential winning run. Nathan struck out Sosa with a nasty slider, capping a dramatic six-pitch at-bat.
The win gave the Twins a 4-5 record on a road trip that started with three losses in Cleveland. During the trip, the Twins lost relievers Jesse Crain, Dennys Reyes and Glen Perkins to shoulder injuries, but they took 2 of 3 in Milwaukee and Texas after going 2-8-2 in their pevious 12 series.
Offense: Hunter’s two-out, run-scoring single in the first inning gave him 40 RBI for the year. Morneau’s homer, leading off the third inning, was his 14th of the season, fifth of the road trip and third in the past two games. Luis Castillo singled his first three times to the plate. Rangers starter Robinson Tejeda (4-4) had 49 pitches the first time through the Twins’ order.
Pitching: Boof Bonser is 3-0 with a 2.31 ERA in his past six starts, but he struggled with his command this time. The big inning was the third, when four of the first five hitters reached base. Bonser (3-1) allowed one run that inning but struck out Ian Kinsler with a 93-mph fastball for a huge second out and then got Ramon Vazquez to ground out to end the inning. Matt Guerrier, who has quietly become an essential member of the bullpen, pitched two scoreless innings of relief. Juan Rincon gave up three singles before Pat Neshek came on to retire Michael Young to end the eighth inning.
Defense: The play of the game was Hunter’s catch in the right-center field gap to end the fourth inning. Hunter sprinted, jumped, caught the ball and crashed into the wall, robbing Michael Young of extra bases.
Up Next: Scott Baker pitches Friday, when the Twins begin a three-game series against the Blue Jays. Toronto’s scheduled starters for the series are Jesse Litsch, Tomo Ohka and A.J. Burnett.