ARLINGTON -- Losing on a walk-off homer in the 12th inning of any ballgame will hurt. But when it's a knuckleballer getting beat on his fastball -- and not his trademark pitch -- well, that seems to sting just a little bit more. Such was the case on Sunday night for the Twins when R.A. Dickey gave up a two-run homer to Ian Kinsler with one out in the 12th inning, handing Minnesota a 5-3 loss.
Dickey entered the game with a runner on second base and one out in the 12th inning. On a 1-2 count to Kinsler, Dickey said he tried to "freeze" the Rangers second baseman by throwing him a mid-80s fastball after having tossed six straight knuckleballs. Instead, that pitch wound up traveling 375 feet into the left-field seats to send the Twins packing for their late-night flight to Oakland -- coming off a loss, and not a series sweep. "Ultimately the pitch rests in my hand, and I threw the wrong pitch," Dickey said. "That's all there really is to say about this one. I cost us this one, no doubt about it." It was a night that began with a home run by Kinsler -- as he blasted the 11th leadoff homer of his career -- and ended with the crucial shot to end the Rangers' four-game losing streak. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Kinsler became the first player in Texas history to hit a leadoff homer and a walk-off home in the same game. He's also just the third Major League player since divisional play started in 1969 to accomplish the feat. That wasn't the only unusual event of the night. After all, the Twins watched their All-Star catcher go 0-for-6 for the first time in his career. They had a home run by their opponent overturned thanks to instant replay. They watched Nick Punto homer for the first time in his previous 371 at-bats and their shortstop also just so happened to turn an unassisted double play in the contest. But what would have been the rarest feat of the night did not happen, as the Twins missed their opportunity to capture their first three-game series sweep in Texas since Sept. 7-9, 1976. "On the road it's pretty good winning two out of three, but we had a chance to sweep here and we just didn't get any big hits late in the game," Punto said. After going hitless in his six at-bats, Joe Mauer's average dropped to .358 on the season, putting him five points behind the new American League batting leader, Ichiro Suzuki (.363). Mauer, Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer -- the heart of the Twins' order -- combined to go 0-for-15 with two walks and five strikeouts. "That's how we go. We go with those guys," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Some nights it's not going to be there. Tonight it just wasn't there. They were pitched tough. We didn't get anything big out of those guys and normally means we don't score any runs." That wasn't exactly the case on Sunday, as the Twins managed to tag Rangers starter Derek Holland for three runs over his four innings -- thanks largely to the production from their pair of middle infielders . Punto homered for the first time since Aug. 4, 2008, and his solo shot off Holland in the third knotted the game at 1-1. Alexi Casilla then delivered an RBI single in the fourth inning, part of a two-run frame that put the Twins ahead, 3-1. But after knocking Holland out of the contest after the fourth, the Twins were unable to get anything done against the Rangers bullpen -- tallying just two hits and drawing two walks over the final eight innings. And while Minnesota's offense stalled, Twins starter Francisco Liriano slowly let the lead he was given dissipate in the middle innings of the contest. The Rangers appeared to have possibly cut the lead to one in the fourth, but a home run by Rangers right fielder Andruw Jones was overturned by instant replay. Third base umpire Brian O'Nora originally ruled that Jones' towering fly ball down the left-field line had stayed fair, but a replay review proved otherwise. From there, Liriano couldn't take advantage as his struggles only continued. In the fifth, with runners on first and second, the southpaw gave up the first of two sac bunts delivered by Rangers catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia on the night -- who had never previously had a sac bunt in his career. A passed ball by Mauer allowed one run to score. But the Rangers would tie the game at 3-3 in the seventh after Liriano gave up back-to-back hits to start the seventh before being replaced by Bobby Keppel. One of those inherited runners scored on a deep sacrifice fly to center field by Elvis Andrus. That's when it became a battle of bullpens -- up until that 12th inning, when Gardenhire relieved Brian Duensing to have Dickey pitch to Kinsler and Michael Young -- both of whom were 0-for-4 against him in their careers. "I just didn't expect him to throw a fastball there," Gardenhire said. "I didn't want the kid in there against all the right-handers, and Dickey has been throwing pretty good. But he just threw a fastball there." Unfortunately for the Twins, the nearly four-hour contest ended on what Gardenhire felt was the one poor pitch made by his relief corps all night. "Our bullpen came in and did a really good job," Gardenhire said. "Until that last pitch."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.