Rangers come up just short in loss
Murphy's ninth-inning hit nearly ties game in duel with Twins
MINNEAPOLIS -- David Murphy jumped on a first-pitch slider, drove it deep down the right-field line and went into his home run jog."I thought right off the bat I got it," Murphy said. "I didn't get it on the barrel; he got it in on me. But right down the line, something of a short home-run porch ... I thought I got it." Manager Ron Washington, standing outside the Rangers' somber clubhouse after a 3-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins, echoed the same thoughts. "I thought the game was tied," Washington said. "When he hit that ball, I just thought it was over the baggie. Maybe two feet ..." Maybe less than that, but the Rangers didn't get many close calls Friday night at the Metrodome. Instead, the Twins took a 3-0 lead in the first against Rangers starter Tommy Hunter and made it stand up at the end. "A very frustrating game," Hunter said. The Rangers trailed, 3-1, going into the ninth against Twins All-Star closer Joe Nathan, but Ivan Rodriguez, with two outs, gave them one last hope when he doubled down the right-field line. That brought up Murphy, who belted one deep but not deep enough. The right-field wall -- actually the famous plastic "baggie" that covers the fold-out football bleachers -- is only 327 feet down the right-field line but it is 23 feet high. Murphy was about two feet short of clearing the baggie when the ball hit the wall just inside the foul pole. He had to settle for a double. "Definitely the definition of coming up short," Murphy said. "I left it up a bit and he hit it pretty well," Nathan said. "I didn't know off the bat whether it was going to tie the game or not. Fortunately, it caught the baggie and stayed in the park." Nathan walked pinch-hitter Hank Blalock but, after Julio Borbon went in to pinch-run, Chris Davis struck out on a full-count, back-door slider to end the game. The Rangers have now lost six of their last 10 and are 2 1/2 games behind the Red Sox in the Wild Card standings. The Rangers' real problem was falling behind 3-0 in the first inning and then not being able to do much against Twins rookie left-hander Brian Duensing, who was making just his third Major League start. He held the Rangers to one run on three hits and one walk while striking out nine in seven innings. Leadoff hitter Denard Span opened the Twins first with a double to right, went to third on Orlando Cabrera's grounder to the right side and scored on Joe Mauer's line-drive single just out of shortstop Elvis Andrus' leaping reach. "I thought Elvis had that," Washington said. "I thought he was going to bring that back down." After Justin Morneau fouled out, Jason Kubel hit a long fly ball off the ubiquitous right-field wall that went for a triple, allowing Mauer to score. Michael Cuddyer then smacked a hard grounder that hit Hunter in his backside and bounced into foul territory for a run-scoring infield hit. "The left-handed hitters were getting me," Hunter said. "I was throwing the ball down and in on them, and that's not a good place. I was trying to go up and in on them." Hunter responded to his first-inning troubles with six scoreless innings, and Pedro Strop made his Major League debut in the eighth by striking out Mauer, getting Morneau on a popup and retiring Kubel on a grounder to second. "Tommy hung out there and put up some zeros," Washington said. "We just couldn't put a dent in those three runs. You've got to give Duensing credit, he made those three runs stand up." The Rangers got their only run in the sixth on singles by Andrus and Michael Young -- extending his hitting streak to 15 games -- and Josh Hamilton's fielder's choice grounder. Their only other real chance to score was the eighth, but luck was not with them there, either. Davis led off the inning against reliever Matt Guerrier with a blast off the right-field wall but managed only a single out of it because the carom was perfect for Cuddyer, the Twins right-fielder. Andrus then smacked a grounder up the middle that hit Guerrier in the leg and caromed over to Cabrera at shortstop. "One ball back to the pitcher goes into foul territory, another goes right to the shortstop," Washington pointed out. Cabrera was able to get the force at second. Andrus, going on his own, then tried to steal second and was gunned down by Mauer. Ian Kinsler followed with a single to left, but Young grounded out to end the threat.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.