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Updated: July 6th, 2012 10:16pm
Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau help Twins hand Rangers fifth loss in a row

Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau help Twins hand Rangers fifth loss in a row

by The Associated Press
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Back-to-back walks left Minnesota's Francisco Liriano with an unsightly six free passes and Ron Gardenhire with a decision to make in the seventh inning.

The Twins manager stuck with his teetering left-hander for one more batter, and Liriano responded with a strikeout that helped quell the final threat from a struggling Texas offense in Minnesota's 5-1 victory Friday night.

The loss was a season-high fifth in a row for the AL West-leading Rangers. Star outfielder Josh Hamilton left early because of back spasms and was listed as day-to-day.

Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau drove in two runs each for the Twins, while Liriano (3-7) gave up five hits and one run with six strikeouts in 6 2-3 innings. The six walks were one shy of a career high.

"We just wanted Liriano to get through it," Gardenhire said. "Those are big moments for him. We trust him. We don't want to extend our bullpen too much, and he got a big out there."

The skinny

Mauer drove in his two runs on a single that scored the only earned run in a three-run third and a sacrifice fly in the fourth. Morneau had an RBI single in the third and hit his 11th home run on a line drive into the right-field seats off Tanner Scheppers in the seventh.

The best chance for Texas came in the sixth when Adrian Beltre singled, Michael Young walked and Nelson Cruz hit an RBI single. With no outs, Napoli deepened his slump by hitting into a double play, and the threat ended with one of three strikeouts by Yorvit Torrealba.

"I've been through that before," said Napoli, hitless in his past 21 at-bats with runners in scoring position. "It's part of the game. I'm just going to keep going."

The absence of Hamilton showed in the seventh when Liriano walked Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus back-to-back, bringing up Hamilton's replacement, rookie Leonys Martin. Gardenhire stuck with Liriano even after Rangers manager Ron Washington went to pinch-hitter Brandon Snyder. After Liriano struck out Snyder, reliever Jared Burton got Beltre on a flyout.

"I've been walking too many guys late in the game, but they have some good hitters, and I made some mistakes with those guys," Liriano said. "So I was just trying to keep my ball down, just try to get them out. If they don't swing, then just go on to the next batter and make my pitches."

Turning point

First baseman Mike Napoli misplayed Josh Willingham's two-out popup for a two-base error that cost the Rangers two runs while the Twins were building a 4-0 lead, but a potentially bigger error didn't affect the scoreboard.

Hamilton, the leading vote-getter for Tuesday's All-Star game, exited soon after misplaying Brian Dozier's fly ball to left field for a three-base error and making a long throw from the warning track in the fifth inning. Hamilton said he first felt a twinge as he broke on the ball.

"I've iced it three times already. It feels a little better than it did," Hamilton said. "It kind of scared me when it first happened because I didn't know what to expect from a spasm like that. I had some weakness in my legs."

Numbers game

15: Number of hits the Twins had in their 7-3 loss to the Tigers on Thursday. It was the first time they had that many hits in a loss since Sept. 25, 2010, also at Detroit.

11: Major league high number of starters Twins will have used after Sam Deduno makes his first big-league start on Saturday for the Twins. Deduno has 5 2/3 innings of big-league experience with San Diego and Colorado.

On deck

Saturday: at Texas, 6:15 p.m. Twins RHP Samuel Deduno (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Rangers LHP Derek Holland (5-4, 5.10).

Sunday: at Texas, 6:05 p.m. Twins RHP Cole De Vries (2-1, 3.91) vs. Rangers RHP Roy Oswalt (2-1, 7.79). 

© The Associated Press