Twins exit Texas quietly

Twins starter Scott Baker gave his team seven strong innings, but the bats were kept silent by Matt Harrison in the finale of a four-game series.

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The Twins lost by 14 runs Monday and fought back from four runs down Tuesday to win in the ninth inning. To leave Texas on Thursday night with a split of a four-game series against the team with the best home record in the American League could be viewed as satisfying.

Instead, the Twins left for Oakland full of regrets.

They lost 4-1 on Thursday to the Rangers and missed a chance to get within five games of AL Central-leading Detroit. They gained one game on the Tigers during the series, but it could have been more.

From that aspect, Thursday’s loss stung.

"The margin for error is definitely small," Twins first baseman Michael Cuddyer said, "but there’s nothing we can do about these last four games. We have to look ahead to Oakland."

The Twins’ schedule is shrinking on them (57 games to go), and they have to pass three teams. Those facts demand their best baseball. They didn’t meet that demand Thursday.

Scott Baker (8-6) went seven innings (97 pitches) in his second start since coming off the disabled list because of a flexor muscle strain and kept the game close by holding the Rangers to two runs on eight hits.

Texas lefthander Matt Harrison (9-6) was impressive, holding the Twins to one run over 7 innings. But it also was what the Twins didn’t do with the few scoring chances they had.

Cuddyer delivered a two-out double in the fourth — but Jason Kubel flied out to end the inning.

Jim Thome led off the fifth with a double, but Danny Valencia and Delmon Young both popped out. Matt Tolbert and Ben Revere reached on infield hits to load the bases, but Tsuyoshi Nishioka hit into a fielder’s choice on the first pitch to end that threat.

Thome came through in the sixth with an RBI single for the Twins’ only run.

"We had a couple opportunities to get a run with two outs," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said, "and [Harrison] pretty much shut us down."

Gardenhire used lefthander Phil Dumatrait after Baker because righthander Matt Capps was sore and righthander Alex Burnett needed rest, and Dumatrait should have pitched a scoreless eighth. But Josh Hamilton smashed a two-out triple. Michael Young was intentionally walked. Nelson Cruz hit a ground ball to Valencia at third, who made a nice stop but threw wildly to first for an error, allowing Hamilton to score. Mitch Moreland added an RBI single to make it 4-1. And the Twins had no answer for closer Neftali Feliz in the ninth as he earned his 21st save.

The Twins’ night came down to a lack of key hits and one big error.

"We had a chance to win a series here," Gardenhire said. "We’re in a situation where we need to do a little of that to catch up."

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