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Updated: April 13th, 2012 9:39pm
Twins offense handcuffed by lefty Matt Harrison in loss to Rangers

Twins offense handcuffed by lefty Matt Harrison in loss to Rangers

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins were unable to break through against tough left-hander Matt Harrison on Friday night in a 4-1 loss to the Texas Rangers.

The skinny

The Twins had a few scoring chances against Harrison, but they were only able to scratch across one run -- a sac fly by Danny Valencia in the second inning for a 1-0 lead that didn't last long.

The Rangers jabbed their way to a 3-1 lead in the top of the fourth with four singles and a sac fly off starter Anthony Swarzak. Ian Kinsler added a solo home run in the top of the seventh to extend the lead to 4-1.

The Twins threatened in the bottom of the fifth with a two-out double by Denard Span, followed by a walk drawn by Jamey Carroll, but Harrison fanned Joe Mauer with a cut fastball to end the rally.

Overall the Twins stranded six baserunners against Harrison, who scattered seven hits and two walks in eight innings while striking out four.

"Harrison was outstanding," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Great movement on his pitches. I talked to some of our lefties, and the ball was really diving in hard. It made them conscious inside, so he used that slider to finish them off. That was pretty much all night. And a great changeup to the right-handers."

Twins' left-handed batters managed only two hits in 12 at-bats off Harrison. They struck out three times and had difficulties squaring up Harrison's diving two-seam fastball and running cutter.

"I don't remember him being as good as he was today," Denard Span said. "Whatever he's done his last two starts is definitely working for him. ...

"Whenever you can throw a two-seamer in on the lefties and also have nice slider movement away, you're going to be pretty successful."

Swarzak went seven, allowing four earned runs on nine hits while striking out three.

Despite the Rangers holding a three-run lead entering the ninth, it was Alexi Ogando who came in to convert the save, not former Twin Joe Nathan, who was given an extra day of rest after pitching four times in seven days.

The Twins came to life briefly when Josh Willingham reached after being hit by a pitch and Doumit on a sharp single. But Ogando settled down to convert his first save of the season.

"It was their night," Gardenhire said. "They pitched so well, and they've got so many veteran hitters. They got it done when they had to."

Turning point

The Rangers delivered four straight singles to start the top of the fourth inning, including an infield hit by Josh Hamilton and RBI hits by Adrian Beltre and Michael Young to put Texas up 2-1.

After a visit from pitching coach Rick Anderson, Swarzak induced a groundball up the middle off the bat of Nelson Cruz, but second baseman Luke Hughes bobbled the backhand, allowing all runners to reach and advance safely.

The next batter, David Murphy, delivered a sac fly to left, and the runners on first and second advanced to second and third after Josh Willingham's throw to third arrived wide and late.

Swarzak said the infield single to Hamilton, which deflected off his glove, will eat at him the most.

"If I just let it go, I mean it's that simple. I need to know when to go after a ball and when not to. I take all responsibility on that one. If I pull my glove back, I watch an easy double play get turned and it changes the whole game. I won't sleep well tonight over that one."

Numbers game

7: Consecutive games with at least one hit for Willingham to start the season.

Health report

Scott Baker's flexor pronator tendon surgery will be performed by Dr. David Altchek on Tuesday in New York. The rehab process is expected to take six months.

• RHP Kyle Waldrop (right inner-elbow strain) has thrown from 90 feet and 120 feet over the past couple days, and the plan is for him to throw off a mound on Sunday. If all goes well, it's likely he will throw a bullpen session on Tuesday. Because of the location of his elbow strain (UCL, which is Tommy John territory), the team is being as cautious as possible.

On deck

Saturday: vs. Rangers, 12:10 p.m. RHP Nick Blackburn (0-1, 7.50) vs. RHP Yu Darvish (1-0, 7.94).
Sunday: vs. Rangers, 1:10 p.m. RHP Liam Hendriks (0-0, 0.00) vs. RHP Neftali Feliz (1-0, 0.00).

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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