ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — The Minnesota Twins are getting healthier and will take any break they can get as the two-time defending AL Central champions try to get out of last place in their division.
A twofer in Texas on Saturday could end up being a boost.
Max Kepler scored the go-ahead run on consecutive wild pitches in the seventh inning after the speedy Byron Buxton helped Minnesota get even earlier with an infield single in his first game since May 6, and the Twins beat the Rangers 3-2.
Former Texas slugger Nelson Cruz hit a tying two-run homer after Buxton reached in the fourth, his team-leading 15th of the season for Minnesota and the 432nd to pass Cal Ripken Jr. for 49th place.
A day after beating Texas 7-5 in 10 innings with help from back-to-back walks with the bases loaded, the Twins won their third consecutive game — one short of their longest winning streak this year — by taking the lead without getting a hit.
Kepler walked with one out in the seventh and took a base three times in a span of four pitches from reliever John King (5-5) with two outs and No. 9 hitter Luis Arraez at the plate, starting with a stolen base.
King's second wild pitch walked Arraez, but was close enough to his right elbow pad on the way to the backstop for Texas to challenge in the hope that a hit by pitch would send Kepler back to third. The walk was confirmed on review.
“Sometimes you need something like this to break your way,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We have someone on third base and put a little pressure on the other team, sometimes positive things happen. I'm glad it didn't touch that pad.”
Isiah Kiner-Falefa connected on a two-run shot for the Rangers in the third inning, his sixth of the season and first since May 2 as the Rangers lost the matchup of last-place teams for their 18th defeat in 21 games.
Buxton was the first to reach base against Texas starter Kolby Allard with one out in the fourth when he easily beat out a sharp grounder up the middle that sliding second baseman Nick Solak stopped. Cruz homered two pitches later.
Buxton hadn't played since the the last of three consecutive losses at home to Texas, when he strained his right hip. It was hard to tell he wasn't running full speed as quickly as Buxton got down the line, but Baldelli said he's under orders not to for the moment.
“I didn't want to go back on the bench, so I've got to do what he say,” said Buxton, who had been pushing hard to get back in the lineup and returned after homering twice in a three-game rehab stint at Triple-A St. Paul. “Whatever I've got to do to stay on the field and keep myself on the field.”
Caleb Thielbar (2-0) replaced Minnesota starter Randy Dobnak and pitched a perfect sixth with a strikeout. Alex Colomé matched Thielbar in the seventh.
Hansel Robles struck out Adolis García, the majors' rookie home run leader with 17, to strand two runners in the eighth, and Taylor Rogers struck out two in the ninth for his seventh save. García struck out three times.
King replaced Allard, who allowed two runs and struck out six in six innings. The left-hander didn't allow a hit in three innings, but the two walks and two wild pitches were enough for the Twins.
“I was just amped up and tried to do a little too much I think,” King said.
Dobnak, who had surrendered eight runs and four homers in 4 2/3 innings in his previous start against the New York Yankees, gave up two runs in five innings.
Twins: SS Andrelton Simmons (left ankle tightness) returned to the lineup after missing the series opener while 3B Josh Donaldson (right calf tightness) remained out. Both exited early in the game before the trip to Texas. Donaldson also has been dealing with an upper respiratory issue. “We’ll learn more about how JD is feeling physically and how his leg is doing as well, but we’ll figure that out later on,” manager Rocco Baldelli said.
Twins RHP Kenta Maeda (2-2, 5.01 ERA) faces RHP Dane Dunning (2-5, 4.57) in a rematch of the Twins' 6-5 win on May 3, their only victory in a four-game series at home. Maeda, who got the win with 5 1/3 scoreless innings, is making his second start since returning from a right thigh strain that put him on the injured list. Dunning allowed three runs — two earned — in 5 2/3 innings in the first meeting.
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