ARLINGTON, Texas — Donovan Solano went 4 for 5 on Saturday, blasting a home run and giving the Twins a lead with a two-run single.
And that may not have been the veteran infielder’s most important contribution.
Solano topped his big night at the plate with an all-out sprint into shallow right field in the eighth inning to snag, with his back to the infield and the go-ahead run at third base, Ezequiel Duran’s popup. The play allowed the Twins to keep the game tied, and they went on to beat the Rangers, 9-7 in 10 innings, at raucous Globe Life Field.
Carlos Correa and Max Kepler each provided run-scoring singles in the 10th inning against Rangers’ 100-mph specialist Aroldis Chapman to earn the Twins’ fifth victory in six meetings with Texas this season.
Minnesota’s five-game lead over Cleveland, which rallied for a second consecutive night to beat Tampa Bay, remained intact. The Twins’ appreciation for the contributions of their 35-year-old utility man, however, may have reached a season high.
The Twins trailed 4-0 when Solano launched a 2-2 cutter from left-hander Jordan Montgomery into the second deck in left field, his fifth home run of the season. An inning later, he ended Montgomery’s night by becoming the sixth consecutive Twin to reach base in a five-run rally. Ryan Jeffers stroked an RBI single and Michael A. Taylor a two-run double to bring the Twins within a run, and Solano capped the outburst with a sharp ground ball into right field, bringing home the tying and go-ahead runs.
The Twins kept the Rangers from scoring again until the eighth inning, when Emilio Pagan suffered a self-inflicted blown lead, his fifth of the season. The right-hander threw only three strikes to the first three hitters he faced in the eighth inning, Nathaniel Lowe, Adolis Garcia and Mitch Garver, loading the bases on walks.
Robbie Grossman then lifted a long fly ball to center, scoring Lowe on the sacrifice fly to tie the game, 6-6. But the Rangers could not take the lead, thanks to Solano’s hustle on a popup to right that Kepler could not reach. Solano stuck out his glove and somehow reached the ball, forcing the runners to hold their bases. Pagan then struck out J.P. Martinez to end the threat.
Pagan’s was the only real hiccup for an otherwise stellar night by the Twins’ bullpen, which has not allowed the American League’s highest-scoring team to record another run against it in the last 18 innings. Seven relievers combined to hold Texas, the only AL team to score 400 runs in its home park this year, to four hits, all of them singles. With the help of MLB’s courtesy-runner rule in extra innings, the Rangers did manage to score against Jhoan Duran in the 10th inning, but the Twins closer dropped a perfectly placed curveball over the outside corner to whiff pinch-hitter Josh Smith and finish off his 24th save of the season.
The bullpen’s performance was critical to the Twins’ comeback victory, given the early hole that their starting pitcher put them in.
Dallas Keuchel’s rough night — he surrendered five runs while recording only 10 outs on Saturday — was disappointing after back-to-back shutout performances, but perhaps inevitable for a pitcher taking on the Rangers’ danger-filled lineup for the second time in a week.
In each of the first two innings, Keuchel allowed a leadoff double, to Marcus Semien in the first inning and Grossman in the second, on a ball that missed clearing the left-field wall by an inch or two. Keuchel then compounded the problem both times by giving up home runs a few batters later.
Adolis Garcia did the damage in the first instance, depositing a 2-1 cutter that got too much of the plate into the right-field seats. An inning later, Sam Huff turned on another mid-80s cutter that was several inches inside, lofting it high and just inside the left-field foul pole, 430 feet away.
Keuchel was removed in the fourth inning after putting the first two hitters on base, Mitch Garver via a walk and Grossman a single. Garver wound up scoring after Dylan Floro relieved Keuchel, on Leody Taveras’ single up the middle.