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Updated: April 14th, 2012 3:36pm
Twins hitters strand 15 baserunners against Rangers, Yu Darvish

Twins hitters strand 15 baserunners against Rangers, Yu Darvish

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins put plenty of men on base -- 15 to be exact -- but were unable to come up with big hits in Saturday's 6-2 loss to Yu Darvish and the Texas Rangers.

The skinny

With 13 hits, four walks drawn and a hit batter, the Twins certainly didn't lack opportunities on Saturday.

But they lacked runs.

Every Twins starter reached base at least once. Six Twins hitters reached base at least twice.

But the Twins hit just 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position and stranded 15.

"We didn't drive anybody in today," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We left way too many out there, so a little bit of a rough day there."

Making the second start of his major league career after the Rangers invested more than $100 million in his services this offseason, Darvish mixed speeds and nibbled with a mid-90's fastball, an upper-80's cutter, and a curveball that ranged from the mid-60's to the mid-70's.

Whenever he needed a key out, he got one.

"I think we definitely had some good at-bats off of him," said Span, who went 3-for-5 with an RBI. "He pitched a good game, obviously got out of a lot of trouble. But we just weren't able to get the big hit when we had his back to the wall."

The Rangers took control of the game with two outs in the top of the seventh inning. Twins right-hander Jeff Gray entered a 2-2 game with runners on first and second and promptly gave up back-to-back sharp singles to Michael Young and Nelson Cruz, which gave Texas a 4-2 lead.

The Rangers scored first in the top of the second inning on a sacrifice fly by Mike Napoli that scored Nelson Cruz.

With two outs in the second inning, Chris Parmelee extended the frame with a bloop single to right field that allowed Danny Valencia to move to third base. The next batter, Alexi Casilla, ripped a hard one-hopper off the glove of third baseman Michael Young, who was playing in. Young picked up the ball and threw to second, but Parmelee slid in safely while Valencia crossed home plate to tie the game, 1-1.

Josh Hamilton untied the game with a booming home run onto the plaza in right field in the top of the third.

Starting pitcher Nick Blackburn held the Rangers to two runs on seven hits and a walk while striking out three, but he left the game with one out in the sixth inning due to right shoulder stiffness.

Span's two-out double in the bottom of the sixth drove home Valencia to tie the game, 2-2, but the Twins missed an opportunity to move in front when left-hander Robbie Ross got Justin Morneau to pop out with the bases loaded.

In the eighth inning, Adrian Beltre delivered an RBI double off Glen Perkins to give Nathan a 5-2 cushion. Beltre later scored on a throwing error by shortstop Trevor Plouffe to make it 6-2.

Making his first appearance at Target Field since signing with the Rangers this offseason, Joe Nathan allowed the first two batters of the ninth to reach -- Morneau on a single, and Willingham on a double. But he settled down to strike out Valencia and Ryan Doumit, and he got Parmelee to bounce out.

Nathan received mostly cheers from the fans who stuck around to watch the end of the game.

The Twins came close to adding a run in the bottom of the fourth inning, but Doumit was thrown out at home plate by catcher Napoli while trying to score from third on a wild pitch by Darvish.

Span's leadoff double in the fifth went to waste as well when the Twins stranded the bases loaded.

The Twins managed to put 14 men on base against Darvish in 5 2/3 innings, but the right-hander allowed only two runs (one earned) while striking out four.

"We swung well as a team," said Parmelee, who went 1-for-5. "We just weren't able to get that timely hit. That's baseball. ...

"It'll turn around for us. We're a good team. ... So things will start clicking again."

Turning point

Blackburn seemed to find a groove after allowing two runs in the first three innings, but when he left with one out in the sixth, the Twins were forced to go to the bullpen.

Blackburn had thrown only 79 pitches to that point, so it's likely he would have been able to finish seven full innings.

Brian Duensing finished off the sixth inning, but he ran into trouble in the seventh, allowing a single to Brandon Snyder and a walk to Elvis Andrus. Manager Ron Gardenhire then went to right-hander Gray, who gave up the decisive hits.

Numbers game

8: Consecutive games with a hit to start the season for Willingham. The last Twins player to accomplish this feat was Shannon Stewart in 2005.

41: Credentialed media members through the Rangers to cover Darvish's start.

14: The jersey number of former Twin Kent Hrbek, who had his statue unveiled outside Gate 14 by the Twins on Saturday morning.

1,000: Career runs scored for Beltre.

Health report

• RHP Carlos Gutierrez left his outing for Triple-A Rochester early on Friday night due to shoulder discomfort. He will be re-evaluated when the team returns home on Monday.

• RHP Kyle Waldrop (inner right elbow strain) is set to throw off a mound on Sunday, and if all goes well he'll likely throw a bullpen session on Tuesday.

On deck

Sunday: vs. Rangers, 1:10 p.m. RHP Liam Hendriks (0-0, 0.00) vs. RHP Neftali Feliz (1-0, 0.00)
Monday: @ Yankees, 6:05 p.m. RHP Carl Pavano (0-1, 5.93) vs. TBA
Tuesday: @ Yankees, 6:05 p.m. LHP Francisco Liriano (0-1, 10.00) vs. TBA
Wednesday: @ Yankees, 6:05 p.m. RHP Jason Marquis (0-0, 0.00) vs. TBA

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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