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Injured Cruz pinch-hits in critical spot

Injured Cruz pinch-hits in critical spot

MINNEAPOLIS -- Nelson Cruz said before the game that he could pinch-hit. Manager Ron Washington decided to give him a shot.

It was a big moment of the ballgame. The Rangers, trailing 2-1 in the seventh, had the bases loaded -- and Washington thought it was the perfect time for his injured slugger to take to the batter's box.

"That was a tough situation to come up and pinch-hit, but I felt that was our one shot," Washington said after the Rangers lost to the Twins by that same 2-1 score Friday at Target Field. "I felt good about it."

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The Rangers struggled all night offensively against Twins right-hander Kevin Slowey, but they got something going in the seventh when Vladimir Guerrero and Josh Hamilton led off the inning with singles.

Slowey retired David Murphy on a fly to right and struck out Justin Smoak, but walked Max Ramirez to load the bases. That brought up Julio Borbon, a left-handed hitter.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire decided that was enough for Slowey and decided to bring in left-handed reliever Jose Mijares. Gardenhire knew that Borbon is 4-for-28 off left-handers. What he didn't know was whether or not Cruz could actually pinch-hit, because he was not on deck when he walked to the mound to change pitchers.

"We didn't know if Cruz was going to come up or not because of his hamstring," Gardenhire said. "So we weren't positive they were going to use him. But it didn't matter. We wanted Mijares to come in and see what happens. He's throwing the ball good."

Mijares, who was on the disabled list for almost a month earlier in the season, is an integral member of the Twins' bullpen -- but right-handed hitters were 7-for-23 (.304) with a home run off him so far this season.

Now he was facing Cruz, who was out of the lineup with a torn left hamstring.

"He said he felt good," Washington said. "Of course he couldn't go all out, but he wasn't feeling anything. I liked it right there. I had a good feeling he might get a base hit."

"I felt good," Cruz said. "I just wish I could be like Vlad, swing at the first pitch and get a knock."

Instead he took a ball, then fouled off two fastballs.

"That second one was a good pitch for me, I just didn't get it," Cruz said.

Mijares then threw a slider, and Cruz chopped it to third baseman Nick Punto, who fielded it and threw to second for the harmless inning-ending force.

Cruz did not go in on defense. Guerrero went to right field and Murphy shifted to center to replace Borbon.

Cruz is unlikely to be in the lineup on Saturday. The injury is not considered serious enough to put him on the disabled list, but right now, he is limited to pinch-hitting duties.

"We'll just see how he recovers tomorrow, and see if there are any residual effects from this," Washington said.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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