(Sports Network) – J.J. Hardy and Denard Span had run-scoring singles in the seventh inning to put Minnesota in front, and the Twins held on for a 4-3 win over the Texas Rangers in the opener of a three-game series.
The battle between division leaders went to the Twins thanks to a solid start from Matt Fox, who made his major league debut and gave up two runs on four hits and a walk in 5 2/3 innings.
Alex Burnett (2-2) took the win after giving up a run in 1 1/3 relief innings, while Matt Capps recorded the final five outs for his eighth save.
Span finished with two hits for Minnesota, which expanded its lead in the AL Central to four games over the White Sox. Chicago’s scheduled game Friday against Boston was postponed because of rain.
Texas starter Derek Holland (2-3) took the loss after allowing four runs on six hits and a walk in 6 1/3 innings. He also struck out five for the AL West- leading Rangers, who were coming off a series win in Kansas City.
Josh Hamilton had two hits for Texas but was taken out of the game for a pinch-runner in the eighth inning because of lower back stiffness, and is considered day-to-day.
Span opened the bottom of the first with a double and later scored on a Joe Mauer groundout to put the Twins on the scoreboard. Mitch Moreland’s sacrifice fly for the Rangers in the second made it a 1-1 game, and the contest remained tied after both teams scored a run in the sixth. David Murphy hit an RBI single for Texas, while Michael Cuddyer plated a run with a groundout.
The Rangers edged back in front in the seventh thanks to Julio Borbon’s bunt, which he executed with runners on the corners and one out.
But the Twins forged in front in the home half, when Danny Valencia singled with one away and Jason Repko followed with a walk. Alexi Ogando then entered in place of Holland and gave up the game-tying single to Hardy.
Hardy was the only batter Ogando faced, as Matt Harrison came in for a lefty- lefty matchup against Span. But the move didn’t work, as Span singled to right to put Minnesota in front.
Texas had a chance to tie the game in the eighth after putting runners on first and third with one out. But Capps came in and struck out Nelson Cruz before getting Ian Kinsler to ground into a fielder’s choice, ending the inning.
The Rangers threatened again in the ninth, when Vladimir Guerrero singled with one out. Pinch-runner Alex Cora attempted to go to third when Borbon followed with another base hit, but he was tagged out sliding into the base. Capps then retired Elvis Andrus to end the game.
Fox made the start in place of Nick Blackburn, who made a relief appearance during Thursday’s 13-inning loss to Detroit…The Twins improved to 3-1 on their nine-game homestand…Minnesota leads the season series, 5-3.