Hamilton homers, but Rangers fall

Hamilton homers, but Rangers fall

ARLINGTON -- Vicente Padilla loves to come at hitters with his fastball, especially early in the game. It's called "establishing the fastball," it's the No. 1 lesson he learned from former pitching coach Mark Connor and it's why he has been a successful Major League pitcher when healthy for the Rangers.

Padilla went hard with his fastball after the Twins on Friday night. But it was the rare occasion early when he went to offspeed stuff that got him into deep trouble. The the Rangers never could recover from that, beginning the second half with a 5-3 loss to the Twins at the Ballpark in Arlington.

"Everything was fine, I only threw two bad pitches," Padilla said in the clubhouse after throwing 106 pitches in seven innings and giving up 11 hits.

The two bad pitches resulted in a two-run triple by Carlos Gomez in the second and a three-run home run to Jason Kubel in the third. The Rangers have now lost four of their past five games going back to the last Mariners series before the All-Star break.

They started the second half on a strong note as Josh Hamilton, beginning a three-hit night, smashed a two-run home run in the first inning to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead against Twins starter Glenn Perkins. If Hamilton's offensive production is a pivotal factor in the second half, then the Rangers have to like him going 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs in the very first game.

"It is nice to see Ham swinging the bat," manager Ron Washington said.

Washington said he liked what he saw from Hamilton in the All-Star Game, and the slugger's second Midsummer Classic may have been a revelatory experience for the Rangers center fielder.

"The day before the All-Star Game, I had a good batting practice," Hamilton said. "I just had that, 'I belong here' kind of a feeling."

The problem for the Rangers on Friday night is Padilla didn't give Hamilton much of a chance to build on that feeling. The Rangers were down 5-2 before Hamilton came to the plate again.

The Twins mounted a rally in the second inning on a pair of two-out singles by Joe Crede and Brendan Harris. At that point, Padilla had thrown 11 straight fastballs in the inning and 25 of 28 to start the game.

He tried offspeed to Gomez, the Twins' No. 9 hitter, and got into trouble. He missed offspeed for a ball, got a called strike with a fastball and then tried offspeed again. Padilla called it a cutter. Catcher Taylor Teagarden said it was more of a slider. Gomez decided it was a good pitch. He drilled it high and deep into the left-center gap for a two-run triple that tied the game.

"He's a darn good player," Washington said of Gomez. "When you make a mistake pitch, he's a Major League hitter."

Padilla got into more trouble in the third, this time against two of the best Major League hitters anywhere. With one out, Joe Mauer singled to center and Justin Morneau doubled to left. That brought up Kubel with runners at second and third.

In the second inning, Kubel had seen fastballs on six of seven pitches, reaching on an infield single before being erased by the first of four Rangers double plays. This time Padilla went for the soft stuff, perhaps looking for a strikeout in a crucial moment. He almost got it.

He threw two sliders for strikes to get ahead 0-2 on the count. After Kubel fouled off a 94-mph fastball, Padilla tried a backdoor slider that apparently did not get inside the door, according to home-plate umpire Jim Wolf.

"We all thought that was strike three ... but you have to deal with a tight strike zone," Teagarden said.

Padilla threw another cutter-slider, and this time Kubel hit it into the right-field seats for his 15th home run of the season. It's only the third time in his past 12 starts that Padilla has allowed a home run. If that pitch and the one to Gomez were the only bad pitches of the evening by Padilla, the Twins certainly made the most of them.

"It wasn't so much the pitch selection as the location," Washington said. "If the pitches had been down and not up, it might have been different. The pitch could have been the right one, just in the wrong location."

Padilla settled in after that. After allowing eight of the first 14 batters to reach base, he responded by retiring 12 of the next 15 to get the Rangers through seven.

"Some guys put some pretty good swings out there, and we got some runs early," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Luckily, we made them hold up, because Padilla got better and better as the game went along."

The Twins pitchers were better from beginning to end. The Rangers managed just three runs off Perkins and four relievers and are 6-30 when scoring three runs or fewer this season.

"That's baseball," Hamilton said. "Sometimes you get it done, sometimes you don't. You keep working and when the situation arises, hopefully you will get the job done."

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