ARLINGTON -- After Monday night's lopsided loss to the Rangers, the Twins were mostly happy with the way the rest of the four-game series turned out.
They bounced back to take two in a row before losing a tough one on Thursday, as right-hander Scott Baker gave the Twins seven strong innings, but it wasn't enough, as he was outdueled by Rangers left-hander Matt Harrison in a 4-1 loss at the Ballpark in Arlington to force a series split.
"To come back and split the series against the team that has the best home record in the American League, it's not ideal, but you take it," first baseman Michael Cuddyer said. "The margin for error is definitely small, there's no doubt about that. But there's nothing we can do about these four games. Now we have to look ahead to Oakland and hopefully win that series."
The Twins, who remain six games back of the Tigers in the American League Central, know they can't afford to settle for too many more series splits moving forward, but they can at least take comfort in knowing they went 5-2 this year against the club that represented the AL in last year's World Series.
"I can't say we're satisfied, but after the first game [a 20-6 loss], we played some good quality baseball," Baker said. "We came up a little short today, but they're a tough team. They're the team to beat, just from the teams we've faced. They have a very potent lineup and they're pitching well, so it's a tough combination."
Baker, making his second start since being activated from the disabled list on Saturday after suffering a right flexor muscle strain before the All-Star break, showed no ill effects against a tough Rangers lineup but did come out after the seventh inning after 97 pitches.
"He said he felt all right, not great, but all right," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I think we're still watching the arm."
Baker allowed just two runs on eight hits while striking out four but took the hard-luck loss, as Harrison was just a bit better. Harrison surrendered just one run on eight hits over 7 1/3 innings, while getting the Twins to ground out 11 times compared to just five flyouts.
"It was a good ballgame," Gardenhire said. "Both starters were very good tonight. Bake was fantastic and their young man was very good tonight. He had all of his pitches working. We only had a couple opportunities, and most of them with two outs, to get a run in but he shut us down"
The Rangers scored the first run in the fourth, when Elvis Andrus, Josh Hamilton and Michael Young laced three straight singles to open the frame. But Baker was able to get out of the jam by getting Nelson Cruz to fly out to right field before Young was caught stealing and Mitch Moreland grounded out on a hard-hit ball to Matt Tolbert at second base.
The Twins had a chance to come back in the fifth, as they loaded the bases with two outs after Jim Thome doubled and Tolbert and Ben Revere reached on infield singles, but Tsuyoshi Nishioka grounded into a fielder's choice to end the frame.
"He's staying out of deep counts, getting a lot of ground balls, and had some quick innings early," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of Harrison. "He executed pitches when things got a little hairy there. Thome leads off with a double and doesn't score, so that's a good thing."
Texas added another run in the bottom of the fifth, coming on a RBI bloop single from Chris Davis to score Yorvit Torrealba, who led off with an opposite-field jam-shot double down the first-base line.
Minnesota finally got on the board on an RBI single from Thome in the sixth to bring home Joe Mauer, who singled to open the inning.
The Rangers added two insurance runs in the eighth. Left-hander Phil Dumatrait came in and allowed the two unearned runs, keyed by a two-out throwing error from third baseman Danny Valencia that scored a run before Moreland added an RBI single.
"If I felt great, I would've asked to go back out there," said Baker, who threw 82 pitches in his last outing. "But just given the situation, I was still trying to be smart about this. I felt given the conditions, I was pretty content with where I was at. I felt good, but you could tell, I was kind of at that threshold."
The Twins were then shut down in the ninth by closer Neftali Feliz, who picked up his 21st save of the season.
"Losing makes it a long trip now," Gardenhire said. "We had a chance to win a series here. We're in a situation here where we need to do that to catch up a little bit."