Josh Hamilton appeared a bit uncomfortable has he tried to settle under a long fly ball while closing in on the left field wall.
Turns out, he was.
The Texas Rangers slugger felt lower back spasms as he broke on the drive from Minnesota's Brian Dozier, and he dropped the ball for a three-base error. The miscue didn't show up on the scoreboard the same way as two RBIs apiece from Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau in Minnesota's 5-1 win over Texas on Friday night.
Still, it was the biggest news of the night for the Rangers, bigger even than a season-high five-game losing streak marked by continuing failures from what's supposed to be baseball's best offense. For now, it's good news for Texas because the leading vote-getter for Tuesday's All-Star game is day-to-day.
"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. Usually when I have spasms, it's mid-back."
Twins starter Francisco Liriano (3-7) pitched around six walks -- one shy of a career high -- and allowed five hits and one run with six strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings. Manager Ron Gardenhire stuck with him after back-to-back walks in the seventh, and he responded with a strikeout that helped quell the final Texas threat.
"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."
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, Mike 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."
The Rangers still have the best offense in baseball -- statistically -- but they've hit their second significant lull in the last month. Texas has scored two runs or fewer in four of the past five games after a similar drought in early June.
"We hit a funk," Washington said. "And the only way we can come out of it, we have to keep grinding and play our way through it."
The Twins sent up eight batters in the third, but only because Napoli couldn't handle Josh Willingham's easy two-out popup that landed untouched just inside the foul line behind first base. Mauer scored the second run of the inning on the two-base error, and Morneau added another unearned run with a single that scored Willingham.
Rangers rookie left-hander Martin Perez (1-1) was solid in his second career start, allowing six hits and four runs -- two earned -- in six innings with three walks and three strikeouts.
"He certainly showed some heart," Washington said. "The pitches piled up after we didn't catch that popup, and I didn't think he would get into the fifth inning."
NOTES: This week's sweep by the Chicago White Sox was the first three-game sweep of the Rangers since June 14-16 last year against the Yankees. Texas had a major league-best streak of 52 straight series of three games or more without getting swept. ... Friday night's crowd of 47,240 was the Rangers' fourth straight sellout. It's the third time this year they've had a sellout streak of at least four games, the franchise record going into the season. ... The Twins had 15 hits 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. ... Sam Deduno will make his first major league start for the Twins on Saturday. He has 5 2/3 innings of big league experience with San Diego and Colorado. He will be the Twins' 11th starter, most in the majors.