Rich Harden threw 6.2 no-hit innings for the Rangers on his return to the mound following injury, but was pulled to save him from another potential trip to the disabled list. Relievers Matt Harrison and Darren O`Day pushed the no-hit bid into the ninth inning, but a one-out Joe Mauer single off of closer Neftali Feliz broke up the Twins zeroes in the scoreline. Feliz and the Texas staff had to settle for a shutout of perhaps the hottest offense in the American League, taking the series opener 4-0.
Harden was by no means perfect, walking five batters on the night, including the leadoff hitter in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings. He'd thrown 111 pitches by the time Rangers manager Ron Washington, like Ron Gardenhire in the same situation with Kevin Slowey last week, was booed by the home crowd as he walked to the mound. Harden clearly didn't want to come out - cameras captured him saying "I'm fine," and pleading for "one more hitter," but after a long discussion, he departed in favor of Harrison. Harrison finished the seventh, O'Day pitched a perfect eighth, but Feliz walked Orlando Hudson and then lost the no-hit attempt to Mauer's single up the middle.
Texas right fielder David Murphy drove home the needed runs for Texas with a two-run triple in the fifth inning, a fly to deep center that hit the very top of the fence and rebounded back into play. Apart from that, though, Nick Blackburn was pretty good on his return to the major leagues, allowing eight hits and three runs in seven innings, with the third scoring on an errant throw by J.J. Hardy on what should have been an inning-ending double play. A Josh Hamilton sacrifice fly in the eighth off of Matt Guerrier provided the final Rangers run.
From a Twins perspective, what can you say? It was all Rangers on this night, and given that many Twins fans had viewed this series as a potential playoff preview, to go all the way to the ninth without a hit is rather disconcerting. Six Twins batters walked, but Minnesota just couldn't move those hitters along, and that's obviously frustrating.
This one, though, belongs to Harden, and to the Rangers staff. It was nearly a great answer to a trivia question: Harden, Harrison, O'Day, Feliz. If not for Mauer, those are four names that would have been linked in Rangers lore forever.
Studs: Mauer, for obvious reasons, and Blackburn deserves some credit too. Allowing only three runs in seven innings - one of which shouldn't have scored, had Hardy not thrown a fifty-footer on the relay of a potential double play - is nothing to sneeze at for the beleaguered righthander.
Duds: Jason Kubel struck out three times to lead the impotent Minnesota bats. In the fourth, he also flied out with two runners on, helping to kill the best Twins chance of scoring. Bad night for the guy all around, really.