MINNEAPOLIS -- Rangers closer Joakim Soria said there was not much difference in the way he was throwing on Tuesday night and when he was successful in converting eight straight save opportunities.
"I executed all my pitches," Soria said. "Today, they just hit it. It's baseball. Those type of things happen. We're only human. We're trying to help the team the best we can. Today was just a bad day."
It wasn't bad the whole day. For a while, it appeared that Rangers starter Scott Baker was going to make a triumphant return to Minnesota in an emergency spot start for Yu Darvish, who was scratched with a stiff neck. The Rangers were three outs away from giving Baker his first Major League win since July 23, 2011.
Then it all unraveled in the ninth, as Soria suffered his first blown save of the season in a 4-3 loss to the Twins at Target Field. Soria was 8-for-8 in save opportunities before letting a 3-2 lead slip away. The loss ended the Rangers' three-game winning streak.
"Soria is human; there is no perfection in baseball," manager Ron Washington said. "The guy has done everything we asked him to do. He just didn't get it done."
The rally spoiled a strong effort from Baker, who was pressed into service on three days' rest. He allowed two runs on three hits and was in line for the win until the Twins' rally. Baker did not walk a batter and struck out four in 80 pitches while retiring the last 10 batters he faced.
"It's not always easy when you walk into a clubhouse and the first thing you hear is you might be starting," Baker said. "But you embrace the opportunity and go out and do the best you can. For the most part that was the case. As long as you give your team the best chance to win, there is not more you can do. Unfortunately, it didn't work out tonight, but we're still playing good baseball."
Baker was facing his former team. He was a member of the Twins' rotation from 2005-11 before his career was derailed by Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.
"Scotty threw the ball well," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's not an overpowering guy, but he can still throw it by guys at 87-88 mph because he has some deception. We're pretty proud of that guy. He came from our organization and is still hanging in there. He had some pretty big surgeries. He pitched well against us tonight. You always look at the guys against the way they played here, and somewhere inside, you root for them. And I root for that kid because he's good one."
The Rangers had a one-run lead going into the ninth, but they could have had more. Texas was 2-for-10 on the night with runners in scoring position. Alex Rios led off the fourth with a double and the ninth with a triple, but the Rangers couldn't get him home. The latter missed opportunity proved pivotal.
The Rangers scored two in the second off Twins starter Phil Hughes but missed more because Donnie Murphy had a three-run home run taken away by center fielder Aaron Hicks.
"We had the lead at the end," Washington said. "Yeah, we would have liked to have added on, but we had the lead. I thought we had done enough tonight to win the ballgame. We just didn't put it away."
Soria started the ninth by getting Trevor Plouffe on a flyout to center. But Oswaldo Arcia doubled off the right-field wall, just missing a home run by a few feet. Soria struck out Josh Willingham on a full-count curve before pinch-hitter Eduardo Nunez lined a single to right field. Arcia scored and Nunez went to second on the throw to the plate.
Then came a weird play. Kurt Suzuki hit a routine grounder to third baseman Adrian Beltre, who went to tag Nunez coming to third. But Nunez avoided the tag apparently without going outside the baseline and was ruled safe at third.
Beltre was baffled as to why Nunez was not called out for running outside the baseline.
"Somehow there is a new rule," Beltre said. "You go out to left field and you come back to third base and it's good."
Third-base umpire Mike DiMuro told Beltre the runner was changing directions to avoid running into a fielder. Washington said Beltre should have taken the out at first base.
"There's no debating on that," Washington said.
"If I had known there was a new rule, I would have thrown to first base," Beltre said.
With Eduardo Escobar at the plate, Suzuki took second on indifference. Escobar was then intentionally walked to load the bases. Danny Santana followed with a little chopper that Soria bobbled, allowing the winning run to score.
"It's part of the game," Soria said. "There were a couple of plays we should have made. The last one, myself. I blew it. It had a lot of spin and by the time I got the ball, it bobbled in my glove."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.