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Twins drop series finale in extra innings

Twins drop series finale in extra innings

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MINNEAPOLIS -- The one player that Minnesota did not want to beat it on Thursday was Josh Hamilton. But after the Twins dug back from an early-game deficit, that is exactly what happened.

Minnesota spent most of Thursday playing catch-up, after Texas tagged Twins starter Livan Hernandez for four runs in the first inning. The Rangers' pitchers gave the Twins ample opportunity to reclaim control of the game, allowing 19 batters to reach base, but just as Minnesota appeared to be seeing daylight, tying the game at 7 in the eighth inning to send the contest into extra innings, Hamilton hit an opposite-field 10th-inning home run off Twins right-hander Brian Bass. Hamilton belted a 3-2, two-out hanging slider 350 feet into the left-field bleachers, and the Rangers held on for an 8-7 win at the Metrodome.

"I was just trying to put it in play and hit it hard," Hamilton said. "If you put it in play, something might happen. Somebody might fall down or get a knock. That's how you approach it with two strikes: shorten [your swing] up and put the ball in play."

Hamilton finished the day 3-for-5 with a pair of RBIs. It was a continuation of the success he's had against the club in the past, batting .529 (18-for-34) with three home runs and 10 RBIs.

"You have one of the hottest hitters in baseball beat us, and you never want to let that guy beat you," Justin Morneau said. "But the guy hitting behind him [Milton Bradley, who went 2-for-4 with a double] is swinging a good bat, too, so it's kind of tough. Do you walk him and give the guy behind him a chance? It's one of those things."

Bass said he just left the ball up. He acknowledged Hamilton is one of those hitters that you absolutely cannot afford to make a mistake to.

"That is what you are supposed to do with a hanging slider, hit it out of the ballpark," Bass said. "That's what he did."

Minnesota blew a bevy of opportunities early, but finally capitalized in the eighth inning, when Morneau knocked in two runs on a bases-loaded single to tie the game at 7.

What came back to hurt the Twins, however, was their inability to take advantage of opportunities. The Twins stranded 11 runners in the game. Delmon Young and Morneau each left the bases loaded, and Young stranded seven runners on the day after hitting into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the first, striking out to end the fifth with runners on first and second, and lining into an inning-ending double play when the Twins were threatening in the eighth. Young has struggled all year in day games, hitting .203 in those contests, against .314 at night.

"We had I don't know how many opportunities out there to get a big hit throughout the game and get back into it and win it late," manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Hernandez settled down after his difficult first inning, lasting 5 1/3 innings and allowing five earned runs.

"It [was] a little frustrating, the first inning," Hernandez said.

In the first, Hernandez allowed a bloop single to leadoff hitter Ian Kinsler, and Michael Young followed with a double that fell out of reach of first baseman Michael Cuddyer and found its way into the right-field corner. Only one ball was hit hard all inning -- David Murphy's RBI double off the right-field baggie.

Hernandez has had difficulty against the Rangers this year. He had his shortest outing of the season, 2 1/3 innings, in Texas on April 27. Hernandez allowed seven earned runs in that start.

"It's a good-hitting team," Hernandez said. "They [don't] strike out too much. The second baseman and Young, and this guy in right field [are having] great [years]. It's a good-hitting team. They hit anything you throw at home plate. ... It's a little crazy. I can do nothing, but I need to figure it out because I think I face them one more time."

Opposing Hernandez for the second time this season was Vicente Padilla, who lasted just five innings while giving up three runs and seven hits on a total of 102 pitches. Padilla pitched a complete-game shutout against Minnesota on April 27.

Padilla tried to keep the Twins off guard with a slow curve and a blistering fastball, and was clocked anywhere from 53 to 96 mph.

One player who didn't appear fooled by Padilla was Twins center fielder Carlos Gomez, who sparked Minnesota's comeback by tying his career high with four hits. Gomez went 4-for-5 with a home run and also reached base in the sixth, when he was hit by a pitch from right-hander Jamey Wright. Gomez also collected three RBIs and scored two runs.

"I wait for the slow curve; I waited for this," Gomez said of the at-bat in which he homered off Padilla. "He threw the ball and then he wanted to throw me a slider, and he [hung] it, and I went 'Bam!'"

Texas' win gave the team a split of the four-game series after Minnesota had claimed the first two contests.

"It's a disappointing loss for us, we had a chance get three of four from these guys," Gardenhire said. "One more big hit and we would have had it."

Thor Nystrom is an associate reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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