Alexi Casilla's walk-off wonderland

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 10, 2011 - 1:44 PM

The infielder's hard single in the ninth inning scored Luke Hughes to give the Twins the walk-off victory.

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Alexi Casilla has 280 career major league hits, and five of them have come in the game's final at-bat to give the Twins a win.

The King of the Walk-off Hit struck again Thursday night, lining a ninth-inning single down the left-field line to score Luke Hughes from second base with the winning run in a 5-4 victory over the Rangers at Target Field.

Casilla has the whole routine down pat, from the cool-as-ice look as he enters the batter's box, to the relaxed swing, to the fist pump as he sees the hit fall. He knows how to protect himself in the inevitable mosh pit celebration, and he's quick with modest surprise mention all of his game-ending heroics.

Asked if he can remember all five of his walk-off hits, Casilla said, "I remember Detroit."

That, of course, is a reference to one of the biggest hits in Twins history -- Casilla's 12th-inning single that scored Carlos Gomez to win Game 163 against the Tigers in 2009.

Other walk-off hits on Casilla's resume include:

• A single off White Sox closer Bobby Jenks that put the Twins in first place on Sept. 25, 2008.

• A single off the Seattle's Brandon Morrow on April 7, 2009.

• A two-run single off Toronto's Kevin Gregg last Oct. 2.

"I love those situations," Casilla said. "I just try to calm down and not be too excited, try to be me. I'm looking for a good pitch to hit."

This one gave the Twins their seventh victory in eight games.

Michael Cuddyer's three-run homer off Rangers starter Derek Holland gave them a 4-1 lead in the fifth inning. But Texas capitalized on two Twins errors to score two runs in the sixth and Nelson Cruz tied it the eighth with a homer into the third deck in left-center field off Twins starter Nick Blackburn.

Manager Ron Gardenhire said lefthander Phil Dumatrait had a knot in his shoulder and closer Matt Capps had tendinitis in his right wrist, so the Twins needed some big outs from their other relievers.

Chuck James came in with the bases loaded in the eighth inning and retired David Murphy with a grounder to short. James struck out Josh Hamilton to start the ninth, and then Jim Hoey entered with his ERA at 9.53.

Hoey (1-2) struck out Michael Young with a 96-miles per hour fastball, then retired Adrian Beltre to put himself in line for the win.

Luke Hughes opened the ninth inning with a double down the third-base line off Rangers reliever Mark Lowe. When Casilla stepped in to face veteran lefthander Arthur Rhodes, there were two outs with runners on first and second.

"I guess you get that feeling that he's going to bang the ball somewhere," Gardenhire said of Casilla. "There's a lot of different ways he can get a hit. He put a nice swing on that one."

Casilla endured a few punches as his teammates mobbed him in the infield.

The Twins sure didn't draw it up this way last winter -- James and Hoey getting the big late-inning outs, with Hughes setting the table, and Casilla driving him in -- but they'll take it.

"It's a fun group," Gardenhire said. "They're rooting for each other. They're getting a taste of some wins here, and you can see they really like it, and it's a good thing. You feel like you have a chance in ballgames again."

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