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Twins miss opportunity against Rangers

Twins miss opportunity against Rangers

MINNEAPOLIS -- Prior to Minnesota's game on Saturday against Texas, the out-of-town scoreboards showed both the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox losing earlier in the day. The chance was there for the Twins to make some noise in the American League Central.

Instead, very little noise was made at the Metrodome, as four Rangers pitchers silenced the Twins' bats en route to Texas' 3-0 blanking of Minnesota. It was the fourth time this season the Twins had been shut out.

A win for Minnesota would have cut Detroit's lead over the Twins to 3 1/2 games, after the Tigers fell, 3-1, to the Rays. The Twins players knew what was at stake, too.

"It's kind of hard to not [look]," Twins designated hitter Jason Kubel said. "We know the situation, so we know what needs to happen. They need to lose some games, we need to win some games. So we're going to watch to see what they're doing."

Twins starter Carl Pavano put together a solid performance on the mound, allowing just two runs on six hits through six innings. But Minnesota's offense was never able to get anything going, leaving Pavano (11-10) with his second loss of the season against Texas.

"[Pavano] gave us a great opportunity," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Just one of those nights where they shut us down totally."

Pavano's only struggles came in the first inning, as Texas put up a pair of runs to take an early lead. Michael Young scored on a double to the gap by Josh Hamilton, and Hamilton came around on an Ian Kinsler single.

"That first inning definitely hurt us," Pavano said.

With Minnesota's offense sputtering, two runs was more than enough for Texas starter Scott Feldman, who limited the Twins to just four hits in 5 2/3 innings of work. Only one of the four hits allowed by Feldman went for extra bases.

"His ball was definitely moving all over the place, with a great breaking ball," Gardenhire said. "He throws a nasty cutter, and the ball sinks. He was tough on us."

It was the second consecutive start in which the 26-year-old Feldman (14-4) held his opponent scoreless. The right-hander also shut out the Rays on Wednesday in a seven-inning victory.

"Feldman's been throwing the ball well," Pavano said. "You know he's going to keep it on the ground, keep it in the park. He's a guy with a lot of movement. He pitched against our lineup pretty good."

Pavano was able to regroup after the two early runs, allowing just two more hits the rest of the way.

"I didn't have the best stuff tonight," Pavano said. "I battled as much as I could. I thought I got away with some pitches that were up. Those are the breaks."

Minnesota had just a few chances to drive in runs, and couldn't convert. In both the fifth and sixth innings, the Twins stranded a runner on third. Their best opportunity came in the fifth, when Brendan Harris doubled to lead off the inning.

But Feldman was able to retire the next three hitters to work out of a jam and maintain Texas' 2-0 lead.

"When he needed to make some pitches, he made them," said Kubel, who went 0-for-2 with two walks.

In the sixth, Michael Cuddyer came to the plate with runners on the corners and two outs. But Rangers reliever Neftali Feliz got Cuddyer to strike out swinging to end the inning.

"I was looking for a fastball. I got a 3-1 curveball, 3-2 curveball," said Cuddyer, who had one of Minnesota's four hits in the game. "I was just too aggressive. It was a bad at-bat."

Feliz, C.J. Wilson and Frank Francisco combined to pitch 3 1/3 scoreless innings in relief for Texas, helping preserve Feldman's 14th victory of the season. Francisco also picked up his 19th save with a 1-2-3 ninth.

Ivan Rodriguez added a home run for Texas in the ninth off reliever Jose Mijares. It was Rodriguez's first homer since joining the Rangers this year.

While Minnesota squandered the few scoring chances it had Saturday, perhaps the biggest opportunity the Twins missed out on was gaining ground on the Tigers.

"We can't control that stuff. All we can do is try to control our game," Gardenhire said. "Tonight, we couldn't come up with any runs. Most of that was due to their pitching staff throwing the living tar out of the ball over there. They ran some pretty good ones at us."

Tyler Mason 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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