If the Twins felt they needed to get some breaks to end their losing streak, they got them with two outs in the ninth inning Tuesday night at Target Field.
Like when Eduardo Nunez swerved around Adrian Beltre as he fielded a grounder and slid safely into third without being called for running out of the baseline.
Like when Danny Santana hit a dribbler in front of the mound, and Rangers reliever Joakim Soria forgot all the fielding practice he did in spring training and bobbled the ball. That allowed Nunez to score from third and allowed the Twins to storm the field and celebrate a 4-3 walk-off victory on Soria’s bobble.
A walk-off bobble?
“It was big,” said Nunez, who entered the game in the seventh as a pinch hitter for Chris Parmelee. “We have a lot of confidence [now]. We know it is a tough team, and we know we have to keep battling.”
They did, ending their four-game losing streak. Soria, who was 8-for-8 in save situations coming into the game, took the loss.
Twins righthander Phil Hughes was sharp most of the night and ran his streak to 175 batters faced without giving up a walk.
But he left the game after seven innings trailing 3-2. Former Twins righthander Scott Baker was tabbed, on three days’ rest, to fill in for Yu Darvish, who was scratched because of a sore neck. And Baker was just a little better than Hughes, holding the Twins to two runs over six innings.
The Twins, however, waited until the ninth to rally.
Oswaldo Arcia blasted a double high off the wall in right-center with one out. After Josh Willingham struck out, Nunez singled to right to score Arcia with the tying run and went to second on the throw home.
Kurt Suzuki tapped to third baseman Beltre, and it appeared the game was headed to the 10th inning. But Nunez ran around Beltre as he started to field the ball. Instead of throwing to first, Beltre tried to get Nunez as he slid into third.
“I wasn’t expecting him to tag me,” Nunez said. “I was expecting him to throw to first base.”
Rangers manager Ron Washington ran out to argue that Nunez ran out of the baseline.
Crew chief Jerry Layne said that since Nunez went around Beltre to allow him to field the ball — and not avoid a tag — it was not a baseline violation.
“That’s the key, to avoid being tagged,” Layne said. “[Nunez] has to yield [Beltre] a chance to field the ball. [Nunez] goes around [Beltre] in an attempt to allow him to field the ball. There was never an attempt to make a tag. If [Beltre] would have stuck his glove out to try to make an attempt, we have a different play.”
As Eduardo Escobar batted, Suzuki advanced to second on indifference. Escobar was walked intentionally to load the bases for Santana.
Santana dribbled one in front of Soria, and again the game appeared headed to the 10th. Then came the bobble, and a Twins win.
“You gotta hang in there,” Gardenhire said, “and we did that tonight and we end up getting a chance to win a ballgame and getting a chance to put the ball in play and you end up getting a win.”