ARLINGTON -- Not much is easy for a team mired in an eight-game losing streak, even handing one of the best closers in the game a five-run lead.
Three Minnesota hits and an error allowed four runs to come home against Joakim Soria, who hadn’t allowed a run - of his own or inherited - to score since May 27, but the Rangers held on to a 5-4 victory with the tying run 90 feet from home.
“My thought was ‘I’ve got my closer in the game, I need to let him get out of it,’” manager Ron Washington said.
Jorge Polanco, who came on as a pinch-hitter in the eighth, recorded a two-run triple for his first major league hit to cut the Ranger lead to one before Brian Dozier struck out and Kurt Suzuki grounded out to third to end the game.
On a 3-2 pitch in the fourth at-bat of the Ranger half of the first inning, Adrian Beltre sent roughly five ounces of cork, yarn and leather 381 feet into the Texas bullpen.
A two-run blast from Beltre gave the Rangers their first lead of more than one run since their last win on June 16, and with Nick Tepesch dealing seven-and-a-third shutout innings, it seemed his opposite-field shot was enough to send the losing-skid to the history books.
Beltre drove in the first and last runs of the night. It was a sacrifice fly from Friday’s designated hitter in the eighth that would ultimately score the game-winning run.
“You don’t ever want to throw any at-bat away because you don’t know how the game is going to end up,” Beltre said.
In what was a rough inning for Minnesota left fielder Josh Willingham, the Rangers extended their 2-0 lead in the fifth with two RBI doubles to left. Luis Sardinas lofted the first run-scoring two-bagger down the left field line past a diving Willingham to score Chris Gimenez from first for what would be the game-winning run.
Shin-Soo Choo sent a 1-0 pitch to the left field wall that hit Willingham’s glove as he crashed into the 14-foot-high boundary at Globe Life Park to plate Sardinas for the fourth Ranger run.
Friday was Choo’s first three-hit game since May 2 and just his fourth multi-hit game in June.
For a team that had fought from behind so many times over the past two weeks, a 5-0 lead was a welcome sight.
“It’s always good when you get the lead early so you can get your starting pitcher some support and some room to work with,” Beltre said. “After we got the two early that’s all Tepesch needed.”
“That’s one thing I thought I did well tonight,” Tepesch said. “We put up some runs tonight and I tried to get us back in the dugout as quick as possible.”
Tepesch said his ability to command all four of his pitches was the key to his success Friday.
The only bout of trouble for Tepesch came in the fourth inning, when a single and a hit batter put two Twins on with one out. A two-out walk loaded the bases before Tepesch painted the black on the outside corner with a curveball to end the threat. It was the third inning-ending strikeout of the evening for Tepesch.
Minnesota never put more than one runner on base against Tepesch outside of the fourth frame.
Tepesch allowed just three hits and two walks in his 7.1 innings of work, which matched a career-high.
The 6-foot-5 righty trotted back to the mound with 97 pitches through seven innings, retiring his sixth straight hitter in the form of pinch-hitter Jorge Polanco before Brian Dozier singled to end Tepesch’s night.
Jason Frasor and Neal Cotts split the final two-thirds of the eighth inning, getting a groundout and a strikeout, respectively, to end the frame before Soria pitched the ninth in a non-save situation.
Texas seeks its first winning streak since June 11-14 in the second game of the three-game set with Minnesota, which is slated for 3:05 p.m. Saturday with Yu Darvish on the mound.