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Updated: July 28th, 2011 9:54pm
Twins Daily: Missed opportunities doom Twins in loss to Rangers

Twins Daily: Missed opportunities doom Twins in loss to Rangers

by Nate Sandell
1500ESPN.com
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Scott Baker allowed only two runs, but the Minnesota Twins could not generate an enough offense Thursday night, falling 4-1 to the Texas Rangers and missing out on an opportunity to draw within five games of the Detroit Tigers for the AL Central lead.

The skinny

Despite giving up eight hits, Rangers starter Matt Harrison held the Twins to one run. Matt Tolbert, Jim Thome and Michael Cuddyer each had two hits. However, that proved to not be enough. The Twins botched several key scoring chances, leaving seven runners on base.

Scott Baker continued to show why he has been the ace of the Twins starting rotation, pitching seven strong innings. However, the Rangers clumped together several hits and manufactured a run in back-to-back innings, which pegged the loss on Baker.

Reliever Phil Dumatrait ran into trouble in the eighth as the Rangers recorded a pair of insurance runs to put the Twins away for good.

A 12-6 Tigers' loss to the Angels opened the way for the Twins to pick up a game in the division standings. Instead, they had to settle for staying put at six games back.

Turning point

Rough starts to the fourth and fifth innings by Baker ended up being the difference maker.

The Rangers rattled off three straight singles to begin the fourth, topped off by Michael Young's RBI hit on a two-pitch sinker. Baker eventually settled down and got out of the jam, stranding two men on base.

But he ended up in another dilemma an inning later. Baker drew the count to 0-2 on Yorvit Torrealba before the Rangers' catcher turned on a pitch and drove it into right field for a double. The next batter, Chris Davis, looped a single into left that brought Torrealba in from second to push their lead to 2-0.

Numbers game

19: Games this the Twins have scored one or less.

20 1/3: Consecutive scoreless innings pitched by Baker, dating back to June 29, before Michael Young notched an RBI single off him in the fourth inning.

.354: Batting average for Cuddyer in the month of July (33-for-94), nine extra-base hits. He went 2-for-4 on the night with a double.

Health report

• 2B Alexi Casilla (hamstring) was placed on the 15-day disabled list after a MRI on Thursday showed a significant strain. Casilla suffered the injury while running out a double in the ninth inning of Wednesday night's game. Luke Hughes will replace Casilla on the 25-man roster. The Twins added another infielder earlier in the day, optioning reliever Chuck James to Triple-A Rochester and recalling Matt Tolbert.

Denard Span (concussion) played a full nine innings in his ninth game for the Red Wings Thursday, going 1-for-4 with an RBI.

On deck

The Twins' 10-game road trip continues Friday as Francisco Liriano (6-8, 4.82) faces-off with left-hander Gio Gonzalez (9-7, 2.67) to begin a three-game set versus the Oakland Athletics -- the third series between the two teams this season.

Inconsistency has plagued Liriano all season. He fell apart in his last start, making it through only 2 1/3 innings against Detroit on Sunday and giving up four runs in a deflating 5-2 loss. It was the eighth time in 18 appearances this year he has surrendered four or more runs.

Gonzalez's season has been the opposite of Liriano's. He has been quietly dominant for the Athletics, posting 2.67 ERA and allowing more than four runs only four times this season. In a rare slip-up, Gonzalez was pelted in his last outing for six earned runs in 4 1/3 innings against the Yankees.

Coming up

• Saturday: @ Oakland, 8:05 p.m. RHP Nick Blackburn (7-7, 4.21) vs. RHP Guillermo Moscoso (3-5, 3.47)
• Sunday: @ Oakland, 3:05 p.m. RHP Carl Pavano (6-7, 4.60) vs. RHP Brandon McCarthy (3-5, 3.52)
• Monday: Off day

Nate Sandell is a contributor to 1500ESPN.com.
Email Nate | @nsandell
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