The Twins should have snuck out of the Metrodome after beating Texas 5-4 on Monday. With two outs in the ninth, Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler dropped a routine pop-up, enabling Lew Ford to score the winning run.
Earlier, Jason Bartlett committed an error, Ford was doubled up on a liner to right, Juan Rincon threw wildly to third in allowing a run to score and Joe Nathan gave up a homer in the ninth to .246-hitting Travis Metcalf.
Yet Kinsler's gaffe touched off a spirited celebration because the Twins had forgotten what it's like to win. They had lost 10 of 13 games, including four in a row.
"I know fans are frustrated about this team," manager Ron Gardenhire said, "but there are some smiles in the clubhouse tonight."
Metcalf's homer gave the Rangers a 4-3 lead, but Michael Cuddyer led off the ninth with a homer off Joaquin Benoit. Ford walked and was sacrificed to second by Brian Buscher.
Bartlett followed with a pop-up to shallow right center. Kinsler scrambled back in time, but his one-handed attempt let him down.
Gardenhire was watching from his office by then. He was ejected in the eighth inning after arguing Bartlett deserved an extra base on his infield single. Bartlett got tangled up with first baseman Brad Wilkerson as second baseman Ramon Vazquez's throw bounced toward the Texas dugout.
Gardenhire stormed out of his dugout to argue, then was tossed when he re-enacted the play with first-base coach Jerry White. However, Bartlett eventually scored on Torii Hunter's single that tied the game at 3-3.
"It was a screen in basketball or a block in football," Gardenhire said of Wilkerson's move. "I didn't have my red [challenge] flag with me."
Joe Mauer hit a sixth-inning home run for a 2-1 Twins lead, his first since July 21, while Kevin Slowey gave up only one run in six innings.
Jasons are a 1-2 punch
You might be looking at the future of the top of the Twins batting order, with Bartlett leading off and Jason Kubel batting second.
Gardenhire has used Bartlett in the leadoff spot when Alexi Casilla hasn't played and in the second spot with Casilla at leadoff. Gardenhire recently tried Kubel at No. 2 and has watched him raise his average to .264.
Gardenhire, for now, likes the arrangement. "I put Koob up there because he's learned about hooking the ball through that hole [between first and second]," he said.
Kubel, who hit .364 in August, said he likes hitting near the top of the order. "I feel like I'm a better situational hitter than anything," he said. "If there's a guy on first, I won't necessarily try to pull but I've always got that option. There's hit-and-runs, whatever. You've got more to do."
Twins pitching prospect Brian Duensing, who was 15-6 with a 3.07 ERA in the minors this year, has been named to Team USA that will compete in the IBAF World Cup that takes place Nov. 6-18 in Taiwan. Eduardo Morlan will take Duensing's place in the Arizona Fall League.
Twins catcher Mike Redmond, battling strained ligaments in his left middle finger for most of the second half, will see hand specialist Dr. Tom Varecka today.
Texas has shut down lefthander Kason Gabbard (sore forearm), so he won't start Wednesday. Vicente Padilla, who faced one batter Sunday at Oakland before hitting Nick Swisher and starting a fight, will replace Gabbard.
Gardenhire was asked for his feelings about being officially eliminated from playoff contention Monday. "I don't worry about that stuff," he said. "When you're done, you are done."