Published November 20, 2014
Josh Hamilton's two-run homer in the eighth capped a three-run inning for the Texas Rangers and set up Joe Nathan for the save against his former team in a 4-3 victory on Sunday over the Twins, their first series sweep in Minnesota since 1999.
Glen Perkins walked Ian Kinsler to start the eighth, and Elvis Andrus followed with a triple to bring the Rangers within one. Then Hamilton hit the first pitch he saw from Perkins (0-1) an estimated 449 feet into the upper deck above right field, suddenly rendering fine performances by Clete Thomas and Liam Hendriks for the Twins to the background.
Hamilton, who leads the American League with 16 hits, is 6 for 12 in his career with two homers and five RBIs against Perkins. The Rangers won their fourth in a row and raised their AL-best record to 8-2. The Twins have the worst mark in the league at 2-7.
Robbie Ross (2-0) struck out three in relief of Neftali Feliz over two scoreless innings for his second win in as many days. Then Nathan pitched a perfect ninth for his third save in four tries with his new team.
Michael Young went 3 for 4 for the Rangers and is 11 for 21 in his last five games.
Thomas, a waiver claim the day after being let go by Detroit, sent a fly ball to the warning track with his first swing in the third inning. With two outs and a runner on second base in the bottom of the fifth, Thomas clobbered another changeup from Feliz to the same spot in right-center to give the Twins a 2-1 lead. This one went further, and Thomas jogged around the diamond to the delight of the crowd of 32,093, the majority of which had probably never heard of him until the lineup was announced.
That was Thomas' first major league home run since Aug. 3, 2009. He spent the last two years fighting injuries and playing for Triple-A Toledo. He appeared in three games for the Tigers this season but didn't even make it to the batter's box.
In the top of the sixth, Young doubled down the right-field line with two outs and Adrian Beltre on first. Thomas put his relay right on target, and second baseman Alexi Casilla threw a strike, too, to get Beltre at the plate.
Hendriks, who hadn't pitched yet because of food poisoning in Baltimore, gave up seven hits without a walk in six innings for his first start of the season. Mike Napoli's homer in the fifth was the only run allowed by the 23-year-old Australian right-hander. Minnesota's Minor League Pitcher of the Year award winner in 2011, Hendriks struck out four.
Napoli, playing first base for Mitch Moreland, who missed his second straight game because of an abscessed tooth, was 2 for 20 this season before that.
Feliz, the converted closer who joined the rotation to replace C.J. Wilson and make room for Nathan this season, has made the transition look relatively smooth. He retired the first 10 batters he faced and got Justin Morneau to ground into an inning-ending double play with runners at first and second in the fourth. The Twins lead the major leagues by grounding into 13 double plays this year.
Feliz had trouble to start the sixth and was pulled after three batters, including an RBI single by Jamey Carroll. But he has pitched 12 innings this season with only nine hits, three runs and four walks allowed, with seven strikeouts. Texas starters have yet to drop a decision this year, and their 2.42 collective ERA is the best in the majors.
Denard Span started the eighth with a single, but Carroll popped his bunt attempt up and Joe Mauer grounded into a double play to end that.
Notes: Moreland is scheduled to have oral surgery Monday in Texas and rejoin the team Tuesday in Boston. ... Rangers manager Ron Washington is considering flip-flopping Yu Darvish and Matt Harrison in the rotation to keep Darvish on his normal rest pattern and to split up Harrison and fellow LH Derek Holland. ... The Rangers don't play Monday. RH Colby Lewis (1-0, 1.42 ERA) pitches Tuesday against Red Sox LH Jon Lester (0-1, 2.40 ERA). ... The Twins send RH Carl Pavano (0-1, 5.93 ERA) to the mound against his former team Monday in New York. RH Freddy Garcia (0-0, 5.79 ERA) pitches for the Yankees. ... The Twins drafted Thomas out of high school in 2002, but he went to Auburn instead. ... Josh Willingham has a hit in every game for the Twins, their first player to do that since Jacque Jones in 2002. ... Span is 10 for 18 in his last four games. He tripled and scored in the sixth.