Thursday, May 29, 2014
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Back From DL, Saunders Helps Rangers Blank Twins

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[May 29, 2014]  MINNEAPOLIS -- The Texas Rangers managed only one run against the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday night at Target Field. Joe Saunders and the Texas bullpen made sure it was enough.

Luis Sardinas' RBI single in the top of the seventh inning scored Leonys Martin from second base, breaking a scoreless tie and leading the Rangers to a 1-0 victory.

Saunders, activated from the disabled list before the game after missing nearly two months with a fractured left ankle, labored through five shutout innings to keep the Rangers in the game. He threw 97 pitches, allowing five hits and two walks while striking out six.

"It was an all-around battle tonight," Saunders said. "You have to give credit to the hitters, they battled me and I was trying to battle them."

Saunders battled himself in the early going, getting into trouble in each of the first two innings. Twins second baseman Brian Dozier doubled to lead off the game, and he moved to third on a groundout. However, Saunders recovered to strike out the next two batters and escape the jam.

In the second, the Twins loaded the bases, but Saunders got Dozier to fly out to the warning track to keep Minnesota off the board. Back-to-back two out singles in the third gave the Twins another threat, but a flyout to center ended the inning.

After that, Saunders settled in and retired six of the final seven batters he faced, including striking out the side in the fourth inning.

"For the first time coming back in almost two months, it was a struggle," Saunders said. "But I made some good pitches and got some clutch strikeouts against some pretty good hitters to keep the team right where we needed to be."

He was matched by Twins right-hander Kyle Gibson, who went six scoreless innings and allowed six hits while striking out four. Gibson threw 65 of his 107 pitches for strikes.

"I feel like I helped them out a bit tonight," Gibson said of the Rangers. "But give them credit; they make you make a lot of good pitches."

Saunders said, "Gibson is going out there putting up zeros, and you have to try and match him. Keep the game where it was at. I felt like whoever scored first was probably going to win."

Saunders' instinct was correct, although it was an inning too late for him to earn the victory.

With Twins right-handed reliever Jared Burton (1-2) on the mound, the Rangers played just enough small ball to scratch across a run. Martin got on with a bunt single. He stole second base, then came around on Sardinas' two-out hit that sliced just out of the reach of Twins left fielder Josh Willingham.

Shawn Tolleson (1-1) pitched one shutout inning of relief to earn the win.

Rangers closer Joakim Soria atoned for his first blown save of the season Tuesday by setting down the Twins in order in the ninth inning Wednesday for his ninth save.

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"There wasn't any doubt that if the opportunity presented itself that he was going to be out there," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.

Minnesota's offense is struggling mightily of late, having scored more than two runs only once in the past seven games. Over that stretch, the Twins (24-26) are 2-5, dropping from two games above .500 to two games below the break-even point.

"We had chances early in the game to get a run in," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "They made enough pitches. It was just one of those cat and mouse things after that. You need a big hit, they got one, they flipped one out there into the outfield, and there you have it."

The series finale Thursday afternoon will be Texas' eighth game of a season-long 11-game road trip. A win would assure the Rangers of their second series win on the trip before heading to Washington for a weekend three-gamer against the Nationals.

"We've been playing good baseball," Washington said. "We've just got to continue to be consistent and continue to get better."

Texas will start righty Nick Martinez (1-1, 2.14 ERA) on Thursday against Minnesota right-hander Samuel Deduno (1-3, 3.48)

NOTES: The Twins scratched CF Aaron Hicks two hours before the game with what the team classified as a stiff lower back. Danny Santana started in center and went 0-for-2 with a walk. ... The Rangers optioned LHP Aaron Poreda to Triple-A Round Rock before the game to make room on the roster for Wednesday night's starter, LHP Joe Saunders. Poreda was 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA in 15 games with Texas this season. ... Texas has not announced a roster move involving RHP Yu Darvish, who was scratched from his scheduled start Tuesday due to neck stiffness. An MRI came back "unremarkable" on Tuesday, and the team was going to see how he felt Wednesday and Thursday before deciding whether he would be ready for his next scheduled start, Sunday in Washington against the Nationals. ... Rangers SS Elvis Andrus was ejected in the top of the sixth inning for arguing balls and strikes. The ejection was his second of the season.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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