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Updated: April 15th, 2012 4:04pm
Twins fall victim to Hamilton's bat, Nathan's arm in loss to Rangers

Twins fall victim to Hamilton's bat, Nathan's arm in loss to Rangers

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- A late two-run homer by Josh Hamilton set the table for Joe Nathan to record his first save at Target Field since signing with the Texas Rangers, who beat the Minnesota Twins 4-3 to complete a three-game sweep on Sunday.

The skinny

The Twins took a 3-1 lead into the eighth inning, but their most reliable reliever, Glen Perkins, was unable to record an out.

Perkins walked Ian Kinsler, then gave up an RBI triple to Elvis Andrus. The lead then vanished for good when Hamilton turned on a fastball up in the zone and sent it into the right-field upper deck to put Texas up 4-3.

"It sucks," Perkins said. "Liam did a good job. Our hitters got us enough to win the game, and I didn't do my job. ...

"If I locate that pitch, he's out. If I throw that where I'm trying to throw it, down and in, off the plate, he's going to swing at it, just like he's going to swing at it (up). He likes to swing the bat, but a hitter like that, that's what they do when you make a mistake. And he did what he should have done with it. It's a fastball right down the middle."

The loss drops the Twins to 2-7 on the season with a four-game series at Yankee Stadium lurking.

In his first at-bat as a Twin, newly-acquired outfielder Clete Thomas fell victim to the black hole in right-center field -- his deep fly ball was caught at the base of the fence by right fielder Nelson Cruz.

Apparently it pays to be persistent, as Thomas yanked a two-run blast up and over that same fence to put the Twins up 2-1 in the fifth inning.

Thomas also helped save a run defensively in the top of the sixth. With two outs and Adrian Beltre on first base, Michael Young roped a double into the right-field corner. Thomas fielded and fired to the cutoff man Alexi Casilla, who made a perfect throw home to gun down Beltre.

Twins starter Liam Hendriks allowed only one earned run on seven hits while striking out four and walking nobody. His lone glaring mistake was hanging a slider in the top of the fifth to first baseman Mike Napoli, who blasted a solo home run into the left-field upper deck.

Rangers starter Neftali Feliz was charged with three earned runs on five hits and two walks while striking out three in his five-plus innings.

Denard Span led off the eighth inning with a single to left, but Jamey Carroll popped up on his bunt attempt. Joe Mauer then hit a sharp groundball down the first-base line, but Napoli, who was shading toward the line, fielded, stepped on first and threw down to second to get Span.

"Obviously you want to get those guys in," Mauer said. "It's frustrating. My last at-bat there, I hit a ball square-up on the barrel, and the guy is right over the bag. ... It's baseball. You've just got to stay positive."

Turning point

The Twins had a chance to break the game open in the bottom of the sixth inning but couldn't come through with a big hit.

The Twins had runners on first and second with nobody out in the bottom of the sixth inning, and Rangers manager Ron Washington went to his bullpen. Left-hander Robbie Ross proceeded to mow down Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham, then got Chris Parmelee to fly out to end the threat.

"We liked the situation," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We had first and second, no outs. We thought we had a pretty good opportunity there. But the kid made some pitches when he had to and got us out."

Numbers game

7: Saves recorded by Nathan at Target Field as a Twin.

4: Earned runs allowed by Perkins this season. He didn't allow his fourth earned run until May 21 last year.

.325: The Twins' team on-base percentage heading into Sunday, which ranked ninth in baseball.

.213: the Twins' team batting average with runners in scoring position.

84: Pitches thrown by Hendriks (57 strikes) in his first outing since the end of spring training in early April.

20-63: The Twins' record against the Yankees under Gardenhire.

Health report

• The Twins are optimistic Nick Blackburn will be able to make his scheduled start on Thursday, but a Tuesday bullpen session will likely determine a lot.

On deck

Monday: @ Yankees, 6:05 p.m. RHP Carl Pavano (0-1, 5.93) vs. RHP Freddy Garcia (0-0, 5.79)
Tuesday: @ Yankees, 6:05 p.m. LHP Francisco Liriano (0-1, 10.00) vs. LHP CC Sabathia (0-0, 6.75)
Wednesday: @ Yankees, 6:05 p.m. RHP Jason Marquis (0-0, 0.00) vs. RHP Hiroki Kuroda (1-1, 2.63)

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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