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TEX@MIN: Casilla lines a walk-off single to left

MINNEAPOLIS -- Alexi Casilla is the first to admit he enjoys coming up to the plate in key situations with the game on the line.

After all, Casilla was the one who gave the Twins their memorable walk-off win in Game 163 against Detroit in 2009.

And Casilla was at it again on Thursday night with his fifth-career walk-off hit, a clutch two-out single in the bottom of the ninth that gave the Twins a 5-4 win over the Rangers in front of a sold-out crowd at Target Field.

"I love those situations," Casilla said. "I just try to calm down and not be too excited. I just try to be me and look for a good pitch to hit."

Casilla's hit into left field off Rangers left-hander Arthur Rhodes came on a 2-1 slider and scored Luke Hughes, who led off the inning with a double against right-hander Mark Lowe.

"He threw first-pitch a slider in the dirt and then he threw a slider a little outside and up, but I wasn't looking for that pitch," Casilla said of his at-bat. "I was looking for something I can pull into the outfield grass. That's what I was thinking."

The game-winning hit wouldn't have been possible, however, if it wasn't for Hughes' double down the left-field line past third baseman Adrian Beltre, who didn't agree with the ruling made by third-base umpire Doug Eddings.

"It was foul," Beltre said. "I know for sure it was foul. I was playing on the line and my first step was toward the line ... the ball was to the right of me. How could it be fair? I was one step behind the bag ... the bounce was way before the bag. Clearly the replay showed it was foul."

But it was ruled fair and it helped the Twins record their seventh win over their last eight games and get within 11 games of the Indians in the American League Central.

"When you win a couple games in a row it breeds confidence a little bit," said Michael Cuddyer, who added a three-run homer in the fifth inning. "So, we have a little bit of confidence going. You can't look at the standings for the win-loss record, but it feels better to win than it does to lose and that's the momentum."

The late-inning heroics came after right-hander Nick Blackburn turned in 7 1/3 solid innings and Cuddyer and Delmon Young provided homers.

Blackburn, who exited his previous start on Saturday after just five innings because of back stiffness, certainly didn't show any signs of discomfort facing the potent Rangers. He served up a solo homer to Josh Hamilton in the first inning and a game-tying solo shot to Nelson Cruz in the eighth, but fared well otherwise, as he gave up four runs (two earned) on 10 hits while striking out six.

"I made a few mistakes and they made me pay for them," Blackburn said. "That's just what they do. They hit home runs. They have some big hitters and they're always going to get you with the home runs. So, it's hard to go out there because you feel like you have to execute every pitch. But I felt pretty good tonight."

Young also helped out at the plate with his first three-hit game of the year, including a solo blast in the second inning off left-hander Derek Holland, who ended up tying a career high with 10 strikeouts.

"I think the guy threw him a changeup and he put it in the seats, so that's nice to see," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He just missed a few others, but it looked his bat head was out there." Minnesota then used Cuddyer's three-run blast off Holland to grab a 4-1 lead in the fifth inning. Homers were simply flying at Target Field as Cuddyer's traveled an estimated 443 feet, while Hamilton's was 441 and Cruz's 450.

"That ball [by Cruz] was hit really good and so was Hamilton's," Cuddyer said. "I hit mine really well and it was the shortest of the three. But hey, it went over the fence, and there were two guys on, which is a new thing this year for me."

Cuddyer's homer -- his team-leading eighth of the year -- came after a controversial play at second base when it appeared Rene Rivera was tagged out by Elvis Andrus on a groundball hit by Matt Tolbert. But second-base umpire Paul Nauert ruled Rivera was safe and it led to Cuddyer's big homer three batters later on a 1-0 changeup.

The Rangers came back with two runs of their own in the sixth with the help of two errors by the Twins. Hamilton opened with a single but advanced to second on an overthrow from Blackburn, before Adrian Beltre scored him with an RBI single. Cruz then reached on an error by Danny Valencia that allowed Beltre to reach third and score on a sacrifice fly from Mitch Moreland.

Cruz's homer into the third deck in left field knocked Blackburn out of the game in the eighth. The Rangers eventually loaded the bases with two out, but left-hander Chuck James got Mike Napoli to ground out to end the inning.

James and right-hander Jim Hoey combined to pitch a scoreless ninth to set the stage for Casilla's walk-off winner.

"Alexi comes up and you get that feeling he'll bang it somewhere," Gardenhire said. "There's a lot of ways he can get a hit. So, he put a nice swing on it and got us off the field before the rain set in."

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