Twins: More gain than pain in trip's finale

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 23, 2007 - 11:02 PM

Joe Nathan took a broken bat barrel off the knee, but the closer battled through and got the save for the battered road warriors.

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - The Twins paid a steep price on their latest road trip: three bullpen arms and a leg.

Jesse Crain, Dennys Reyes and Glen Perkins all went down because of shoulder injuries.

Then, sure enough, one inning before they could head home to safety Wednesday, the broken barrel of Victor Diaz's bat went twirling into the side of closer Joe Nathan's right knee.

Fortunately for the Twins, Nathan seemed to be fine.

"It kind of looks like we've got a target on us right now," he said, after overcoming the pain long enough to save a 5-3 victory over Texas.

The Twins finished with a 4-5 record on their road trip. After getting swept at Cleveland, they came back to take two of three from Milwaukee and Texas.

"Winning the last two series was huge for this baseball team," said manager Ron Gardenhire, whose team had gone 2-8-2 in the 12 series prior to Milwaukee.

In this rubber match with Texas, Boof Bonser survived five shaky innings, and Justin Morneau homered for the third time in two games as the Twins built a 5-2 lead against Rangers starter Robinson Tejeda.

After Matt Guerrier turned in two scoreless innings, Texas trimmed the lead to 5-3 in the eighth against reliever Juan Rincon. Pat Neshek came on to record the final out of the eighth, stranding two runners.

Nathan entered for the ninth, getting his first save opportunity in 18 days. This one was anything but routine.

Mark Teixeira led off the ninth with a single, and then Diaz broke his bat, grounding into a double play. The Twins were one out from victory, but before Gardenhire could blink, Nathan was hobbling around the infield with his glove off.

Nathan said the impact of Diaz's bat sent a sharp pain through his knee and up the leg.

"I was thinking, 'Johan, get out there,' " Gardenhire said, happy he could laugh about the prospect of using starter Johan Santana for a one-out save. "It was scary. Basically, [Nathan] said, 'I'm fine. Let's go before it tightens up.' That was good enough for me."

Nelson Cruz followed with a long fly ball toward the left-center field wall. Out ran Torii Hunter, who had made a sensational catch to rob Michael Young of extra bases in the fourth inning. But Hunter couldn't come up with Cruz's drive, as the ball bounced off his glove for a double.

After walking Ian Kinsler, Nathan faced pinch hitter Sammy Sosa, who represented the go-ahead run. They had a dramatic six-pitch battle, before Nathan finished him off with a slider for his ninth save in 10 chances.

Nathan said his right leg would probably feel tight on the flight home, but he hopes to be ready for another save situation Friday against Toronto.

"It's a good thing we've got a day off [today]," he said.

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