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Twins' rally spoils Pudge's return in Texas

Twins' rally spoils Pudge's return in Texas

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ARLINGTON -- The Rangers were cruising toward what seemed another win, but the sixth inning got in their way once again.

Texas entered the inning with a three-run lead, but pitchers Kevin Millwood and Darren O'Day couldn't protect it, as the Rangers fell, 5-4, to the Twins at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Wednesday.

It was the second time in two days the Rangers lost a lead in the sixth inning. They have been outscored, 88-64, in that inning this season.

"The sixth inning did us in again," manager Ron Washington said. "[The Twins] went out in the sixth and they strung some hits together. [Millwood] went out in the sixth with 70-something pitches. He's our ace. We just didn't get it done."

The loss overshadowed the triumphant return to Arlington of catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who was acquired from the Astros on Tuesday. Rodriguez went 3-for-4 with an RBI double and two singles in his first game with Texas. The Rangers fell one game behind the Red Sox in the American League Wild Card race and a season-high 6 1/2 games behind the Angels in the West race. Both teams won on Wednesday.

Millwood hasn't won in his past four starts and has just one win over his past eight games since the start of July.

"I couldn't make pitches there in the sixth," Millwood said. "I felt fine and my stuff felt fine, but I didn't put the ball where I needed to. I can't let guys get on base. I've got to make them earn their way on.

"Tonight was a game we should've won. We're four runs up [going into the fifth] and I didn't do my job."

Millwood recorded the first out in the fifth, but then allowed back-to-back walks and a single to load the bases. He gave up a sacrifice fly for the second out of the inning and another walk to load the bases.

He then induced a flyout to end the threat.

"He threw a lot of pitches in the fifth," Rodriguez said. "He just had one bad inning in the sixth. Five strong innings, but they just got him there."

The Twins hit back-to-back doubles to start the inning to bring the score to 4-2. Millwood responded by getting the next two hitters, but the Twins offense would soon knock him from the game.

The Twins then had back-to-back hits that scored one run apiece to tie the game at 4.

Washington pulled Millwood in favor of O'Day, who allowed a single that center fielder Marlon Byrd fielded and fired back to Rodriguez for a play at the plate.

But Rodriguez couldn't catch the ball, and Twins outfielder Denard Span slid in safely for the go-ahead run.

"If he held onto the ball, [Span's] dead," Washington said. "Marlon made a great throw."

Millwood allowed all five runs on seven hits. He walked three and struck out four. Rodriguez, who received tremendous ovations from the crowd in each plate appearance, ignited a rally in the third inning with a single up the middle, his first hit since returning to the Rangers. Following him, the next three hitters singled, which gave the Rangers a 3-0 lead.

Rodriguez added an RBI double an inning later to push the Rangers ahead, 4-0. "I've seen him shoot that ball to right field many times," Washington said of Rodriguez. "I've seen it before. He still has game in him."

The Rangers offense had plenty of opportunities to eke out a few more runs but didn't.

Byrd led off the second inning with a double, but the Rangers went down 1-2-3 to strand the baserunner. An inning later, after scoring three runs with no outs, they stranded Michael Young on first.

Young's single gave him a 21-game hit streak at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. That matched his 21-game streak from Aug. 8-Sept. 18 for the second-longest behind Rodriguez.

Young is hitting .380 (30-for-79) with six home runs, five doubles, 16 RBIs and 17 runs during his streak.

Second baseman Ian Kinsler led off the fourth with a single, which first baseman Hank Blalock followed with his second walk over his past 34 games.

Rodriguez doubled home Kinsler to put runners on second and third with no outs. Twins pitcher Scott Baker (11-7) ended the inning with three consecutive outs.

"I think that start very easily could have gone south fast," Baker said. "I just continued to make pitches and tried to stay positive and for the most part, it worked out."

Byrd hit a one-out triple in the fifth but was stranded at third base.

"We had our opportunities in the fifth," Washington said. "We just didn't get it done. We squandered some opportunities offensively earlier in the game."

Daniel Paulling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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