Nothing is automatic in loss to Texas

  • Article by: JEFF SHELMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 9, 2006 - 10:38 PM

The Twins wasted an early lead against the Rangers and with it an opportunity to win the series, taking a step backward on the eve of the All-Star break.

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - The goal one week ago was simple: Keep pushing.

Yes, the Twins began a six-game road trip to Kansas City and Texas as one of baseball's hottest teams. They wanted to build on that momentum in the final week before the All-Star break.

That didn't happen. Sunday's 5-2 loss at Texas capped a road trip on which the Twins won only two of six games. And Twins manager Ron Gardenhire even joked earlier this week that the first of those victories had been "donated" by the Kansas City Royals.

Sometimes things just don't go right for a baseball team, and that was the case Sunday for the Twins. Consider:

• They lost for the first time in Johan Santana's past 10 starts.

• Santana gave up multiple home runs in a game for the first time since June 2005 (though Gary Matthews Jr.'s seventh-inning homer was certainly a product of hitter-friendly Ameriquest Field).

• The Twins didn't get a runner past first base in the final five innings.

Joe Mauer didn't get a hit for the second game in a row. It is the first time Mauer has gone consecutive games without a hit for the first time since September.

• And Mauer, who leads the major leagues with a .378 batting average, went only 3-for-18 (.167) on the road trip.

As a result, the Twins will open the second half of the season 11 games behind Detroit in the American League Central and nine behind the White Sox in the wild card race.

Gardenhire, who had hoped to enter the break with a two-game winning streak, was disappointed in his team's lack of discipline against the Rangers.

"If we just stand there a few times, we're probably going to walk and get some runs," Gardenhire said. "But we chased a few too many pitches and didn't have enough quality at-bats today to score runs. We should've scored runs today."

The Twins went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight runners. With the bases loaded in the top of the fourth, Nick Punto came to the plate. Punto chased a high 3-2 fastball and the Twins' most serious scoring opportunity was lost.

Santana (9-5) was especially sharp early -- he struck out five of the first six Rangers he faced -- but made a couple of mistakes.

In the sixth, Santana thought he had Mark Teixeira struck out with a fastball away, but the pitch was called a ball. Teixeira crushed the next pitch over the left field wall for a two-run homer.

"I threw a changeup and it stayed in the middle [of the plate] pretty much, and he's a power hitter, he's a good hitter," Santana said. "He put a pretty good swing and hit the ball out of the ballpark."

That gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead, and the Twins never really made any noise against the Texas bullpen. Matthews hit a two-run homer an inning later.

When it was over, the Twins tried to keep things in perspective. Even though they went 2-4 on this trip, they are 20-5 since June 11.

"Three weeks ago, we were dead in the water; we're not dead in the water any more," Gardenhire said. "We're eight games over .500 and we're looking up at two very good teams in our division, but at least we have breathing room and we're above .500 and we have a chance to get on another little run. We've played well at home and we start off with eight at home and let's see if we can make a run."

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