Rangers rough up Nathan in opener

Rangers rough up Nathan in opener

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins-Rangers series opener could have originally been re-dubbed "Friday the 13th: Rincon's Return."

By the end of Minnesota's 9-6 loss to Texas in 11 innings, the title should have been switched to "Friday the 13th: The Metrodome's Revenge."

"Too many crazy things happened out there," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

A low-trajectory fly ball to right field by the Rangers' Chad Allen off Joe Nathan was lost in the lights and white roof by outfielder Jacque Jones. After Jones misplayed the ball, it skipped past him to the wall for an RBI double that scored Richard Hidalgo with the go-ahead run.

"It was just in and out, in and out," Jones said. "Then once it started getting low, I just couldn't see it."

"What are you going to do? That's the Metrodome," shrugged Gardenhire, whose team has lost two in a row to fall six games behind the AL Central-leading White Sox.

With runners on second and third and two outs in the 11th, Mark Teixeira smoked a ball off Nathan's right calf. It ricocheted to shortstop Nick Punto, who made a spectacular stop. But Punto's throw pulled Justin Morneau off first base, allowing two more runs to score.

Nathan had already earned hazard pay in the inning when leadoff batter Laynce Nix hit a sharp one-hopper to the mound. The pitcher reflexively managed a barehanded stop before he threw to first base for the out. Fearing Nathan (1-1) was hurt, Gardenhire and head trainer Rick McWane examined the pitcher (1-1) before he was cleared to continue.

"I must have been a target," Nathan said.

But after the second incident of contact with hard-hit baseballs, Gardenhire lifted Nathan.

"You knew it was time to get him out of there," Gardenhire said.

Nathan allowed three runs and five hits in the game.

"I wasn't hit hard at all," Nathan said. "I felt like I threw the ball where I wanted to. [Jones] just lost the ball in the lights. I would have been out with no runs. We might be celebrating right now, as a matter of fact."

The Twins hoped to celebrate the return of reliever Juan Rincon, but Texas worked from a different script. Rincon, who was freshly reinstated from his 10-day suspension for violating the league's rules on performance-enhancing drugs, entered in his familiar eighth-inning role as the Twins held a 6-5 lead.

After Rincon fired two strikes to Michael Young, the leadoff batter sent a ball inside the line in right field. The hit pinballed around the corner and went for a triple. Young easily scored the tying run on Teixeira's soft single to right field.

Rincon gave up three hits and hit a batter in 1 1/3 innings. As Gardenhire walked out to replace the pitcher with J.C. Romero in the ninth, one of Romero's warmup pitches escaped the bullpen and struck the manager.

"I pointed to the bullpen to bring a pitcher in and I got hit with the ball," Gardenhire said. "I almost turned around and went back saying, 'He must not be ready.'"

The Twins seemed more than ready for Saturday the 14th. They took a 6-2 lead after four innings, were unable to get another runner past first base again until the 10th. The advantage narrowed on starter Joe Mays in the seventh when Hidalgo's drive to center field kissed off a leaping Torii Hunter's glove above the fence for a two-run homer that made it a one-run game.

"If Torii catches the ball out there ... it's a whole different ballgame," Mays said. "I think nine times out of 10, he catches that ball."

"Some bad breaks tonight," Nathan said. "I blame Friday the 13th. That's why you play the game. It's not going to be perfect every time."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.