The Twins, who left 14 men on base and wasted numerous chances to break a 4-4 tie in the late innings, finally gave way to the Rangers in the eighth. Adrian Beltre, who had earlier hit his fourth homer in two days, ripped a double to start the inning against Jared Burton. An error by third baseman Trevor Plouffe on a chopper by Nelson Cruz put runners at first and third. Mitch Moreland then skied a double to center field to score Beltre for a 5-4 lead.
The inning got worse for the Twins. Shortstop Pedro Florimon booted a ground ball, allowing Cruz to score for a 6-4 Rangers lead. Texas scored four more runs in the inning, capped by Josh Hamilton's two-run single for a 10-4 lead.
The Twins did force former teammate Joe Nathan to close out the game in the top of the ninth after Elvis Andrus' two-out error allowed Plouffe and Jamey Carroll to score, cutting the Rangers' lead to 10-6. With two runners on, Nathan got Ben Revere to pop out to end the game.
"We battled pretty hard out there," said manager Ron Gardenhire, who was ejected in the third inning. "Our defense let us down there at the end. We missed too many plays. You saw throughout the game we left 14 men out there. We had plenty of opportunities."
The drama started in the third inning. That's when Rangers starter Roy Oswalt drilled Twins catcher Joe Mauer with a fastball on the upper back on a 3-0 pitch with first base open. Needless, to say, Mauer was surprised. Oswalt said he was just trying to come back inside after missing inside on the previous pitch.
"For some reason, I can't keep the ball true on the left side," Oswalt said. "He's been beating me away, away, away. I was trying to get him out in and just dropped my elbow. I don't know the reason why the ball is coming back on the left side of the plate. I can keep it true on the right side. The left side, I can't really keep it true and I dropped my elbow and it kind of sailed on me."
It caught Mauer off guard, considering the count and the situation.
"I was pretty surprised," Mauer said. "All I know is there was a base open, 3-0 and I almost got one in the neck. So that's the way I saw it. I didn't hear anything or get an explanation for it. What you guys saw is what I saw."
In the bottom of the inning, with one out, Twins rookie starter Scott Diamond hummed a fastball behind Hamilton. Home-plate umpire Wally Bell immediately ejected Diamond after the pitch whizzed behind Hamilton. Gardenhire argued briefly before he was tossed as well.
It was Gardenhire's third ejection this season. The Twins were confused and frustrated by Bell's decision to give Diamond a quick hook when no warning had been issued after Mauer was plunked (both teams were warned before Twins reliever Anthony Swarzak finished the at-bat with Hamilton, which resulted in a walk).
"I'm not going to get into that," Gardenhire said. "I'm not going to get into that at all. You saw it. I don't have to talk about that. If you think that's the right way to handle that situation, then we differ in opinion. I've never seen it happen that way before, so that's just the way it went."
Diamond said he wasn't given a reason why he was ejected for the first time in his young career.
"I thought I got the hook a little early," Diamond said. "I was a little frustrated because I thought a warning would have been issued, but that's the way it goes. I was trying to work in on the pitch and it definitely got away from me. My control wasn't as great tonight. I'm just glad nobody got hurt."
The Twins fought all night. They rallied from a 4-2 deficit in the top of the sixth when the bottom of the order broke through against Oswalt and the Texas bullpen. Matt Carson, who replaced Josh Willingham (stiff back) in the lineup minutes before the game, and Plouffe singled to start the inning.
After Jamey Carroll's sacrifice bunt moved the runners over, Florimon plated a run on a groundout to second and Denard Span tied the game off reliever Michael Kirkman with a single to right to make it 4-4.
The Twins could have scored more in the inning. They left the bases loaded as designated hitter Ryan Doumit popped out to left field against Rangers reliever Alexi Ogando. The Twins then left runners in scoring position in the seventh and eighth innings.
That was the story of the night, that and Diamond protecting his team's All-Star catcher, maybe a moment the Twins can rally around with what could be three intensified games this weekend.
"I don't think he was trying to throw it there," Mauer said of Diamond's pitch to Hamilton. "But it was just, people in this clubhouse have each others' backs, and that's all I can say."