Texas closer Joakim Soria bobbled a slow-bouncing ball hit by Minnesota's Danny Santana to the left of the mound with two outs and the bases loaded in the ninth inning, allowing the winning run to score in the Twins' 4-3 victory over the Rangers on Tuesday night.
The day began ominously for the Rangers when star pitcher Yu Darvish was scratched from his scheduled start with stiffness in his neck. Fill-in Scott Baker gave up three hits over six innings and Chris Gimenez hit a tiebreaking two-out RBI single in the sixth off Phil Hughes.
But Soria (1-2) took his first blown save in nine chances with a shaky ninth inning patched together by the Twins, who ended their four-game losing streak.
Oswaldo Arcia hit a one-out double off the wall in right-center, just a few feet shy of where he homered off Baker in the second inning, and Eduardo Nunez tied the game with a two-out single.
Then Nunez kept the rally alive with some nifty running.
He moved up on the throw home that was up the line by right fielder Alex Rios. On a fielder's choice grounder to Adrian Beltre, Nunez stopped short of the third baseman's glove, scooted right and circled around to the bag before the tag. Then he scored the winning run when Santana ended the game with the softest of contact.
Glen Perkins (2-0) pitched a scoreless ninth for the victory, stranding Rios after a leadoff triple that Santana, normally a shortstop, appeared to misplay in center field and couldn't catch after getting twisted around.
Hughes had his winning streak stopped at five. Over his last five turns, he had a 1.08 ERA and a 27-0 strikeout-walk ratio.
Aaron Hicks saved Hughes from a huge deficit by sprinting to the warning track and snagging the ball with a perfectly timed leap above and beyond the center field wall to steal a three-run homer from Donnie Murphy, who settled for a sacrifice fly. Rougned Odor followed with an RBI double to get one of those runs back.
Shortstop Eduardo Escobar and left fielder Josh Willingham let a ball by Mitch Moreland bounce between them for a single to start the sixth.
After giving up six runs in six innings in his only other start this season, last Friday at Detroit, Baker was supposed to resume a role as a long reliever. But he was in control the entire night.
Baker was a second-round draft pick by the Twins in 2003 who spent five years in their rotation, including a 15-win season in 2009, but he developed elbow trouble and needed Tommy John ligament replacement surgery in 2012. So the last three years for the right-hander have been all about rehabilitation and re-establishing his place in the majors. The Rangers, who picked up Baker at the end of spring training, are his third team in two seasons.
This was a stellar performance for him, even if he's bound to return to the bullpen soon. Baker didn't allow a walk and struck out four. He surrendered an RBI double to Joe Mauer with two outs in the third before retiring the last 10 batters he faced.
NOTES: Rangers manager Ron Washington passed Bobby Valentine on the franchise's all-time list for most games managed with 1,187. ... The Rangers will reinstate LHP Joe Saunders (0-1, 9.82) from the DL to start on Wednesday night, with RHP Kyle Gibson (4-4, 4.68 ERA) pitching for the Twins. ... Saunders was hit by a line drive on the left ankle in his first start on April 4, and after nearly two months of rehabilitation he will pitch with no restriction, Washington said. "The Minnesota Twins are going to tell us how limited he's going to be," he said. ... Gibson is 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA in four starts this year at home. ... Twins assistant GM Rob Antony said OF Sam Fuld, on the DL since May 8 due to concussion symptoms, has yet to resume on-field workouts, still lacking the three straight symptom-free days required for clearance.