Holland Returns To Rotation As Rangers Take On Twins

(Sports Network) - While the Texas Rangers appear to be headed to their first American League West title since 1999, the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins still have some work to do.

The two division leaders will square off tonight in the opener of a three-game series at Minnesota's Target Field.

Texas won the AL West in 1999, the last time it reached the postseason, and will resume a 10-game road trip Friday in the Twin Cities. The Rangers, who are 10 games ahead of Oakland and 10 1/2 games in front of Anaheim in the division standings, will also visit Toronto for four games on the swing.

The Rangers won for the seventh time in 11 tries with Wednesday's 4-3 triumph over Kansas City in the finale of a three-game series from Kauffman Stadium, as Mitch Moreland homered and Nelson Cruz drove in a pair of runs. Andres Blanco had two hits and an RBI and David Murphy ended with three hits for Texas, which evened its road mark at 32-32 this season.

Tommy Hunter started for Texas and improved to 12-2 by holding the Royals to two runs in 5 2/3 innings. Neftali Feliz later recorded his 34th save with a scoreless ninth.

"Tommy was in and out," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He was getting the ball up a little bit, but he stayed out there and battled. That's all you can ask from him. He didn't have his best stuff but he had good enough stuff."

Derek Holland will try for similar results when he gets the nod Friday. He is 2-2 with a 4.76 ERA in seven games (5 starts) and hasn't won since May 17 versus the LA Angels of Anaheim. Holland did not factor in the outcome of a 5-0 loss versus Oakland last Saturday, as he permitted only one run in 4 2/3 innings of work.

The left-hander suffered a loss to Minnesota on May 30 at Target Field, where he allowed three runs and three hits in an inning of work. Holland is 1-1 with a 6.10 ERA in three career starts against the Twins.

Minnesota will continue a nine-game homestand Friday and lost out on a chance for a three-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers with Thursday's 10-9 loss in 13 innings. Delmon Young grounded into a fielder's choice to score a run in the bottom of the 11th inning, but Twins hurler Nick Blackburn gave up a solo home run to Gerald Laird in the 13th to absorb the loss.

The Twins, who went down in order in the bottom half, got just two innings out of starter Scott Baker because of elbow pain. He allowed two runs in two innings for the no-decision, while Danny Valencia and Jose Morales finished with three hits and two RBI apiece in defeat.

Minnesota was coming off a 2-1 win in 10 innings on Wednesday.

"It's disappointing, you know," said Twins relief pitcher Brian Duensing, who allowed a run over two innings and was one of seven relievers used. "We had a lot of chances to win the ballgame, just couldn't get it done."

Minnesota's lead atop the AL Central is now 3 1/2 games ahead of the Chicago White Sox. The club will also host Kansas City on the homestand.

In other team news, Michael Cuddyer has 497 RBI for his career and is three away from becoming the 10th player to collect 500 in a Twins uniform.

Blackburn was slated to pitch Friday's game, but was pushed back until Sunday after appearing in yesterday's loss. Manager Rod Gardenhire scoured the minor league system and is scheduled to go with Matt Fox from Triple-A Rochester. Fox, a right-hander, compiled a 6-9 record and a 3.95 ERA in 35 games (21 starts) for the Red Wings this season.

Fox was originally selected by the Twins in the supplemental first round of the 2004 draft.

The Twins have won four of seven meetings with Texas this season and swept a three-game series between the teams at Target Field from May 28-30.

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