MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Eduardo Nunez's two-out single for Minnesota had just tied the game, and the ninth inning was about to end on a routine ground ball.
What happened next was anything but by the book.
Texas closer Joakim Soria bobbled a slow-bouncing dribbler by Danny Santana to the left of the mound, allowing Nunez to score the winning run for the Twins in a 4-3 victory over the Rangers on Tuesday night.
''I'm the guy getting comfortable on this team. I'm the new guy here. I try to help the team to win, and I did it,'' said Nunez, who celebrated his clutch hit that drove in Oswaldo Arcia with a double-arm raise after arriving at second when the throw home from right fielder Alex Rios was up the line.
Nunez said he took the extra base to give Arcia, whom he aptly described as ''not fast,'' a better chance to score in case the throw was cut off. Then came a grounder to third, where Nunez stopped short as Adrian Beltre fielded the ball.
Nunez scooted right and circled around to the back of the bag to bring the safe call from umpire Mike DiMuro. The Rangers argued Nunez should have been out for going more than 3 feet out of the baseline. Speaking to a pool reporter afterward, crew chief Jerry Layne said Nunez was not guilty because Beltre never attempted to tag Nunez until the scramble began.
''If he would have stuck his glove out to try to make an attempt, we have a different play,'' Layne said. ''Ninety-nine percent of the time, they attempt to make a tag. He never made an attempt.''
Beltre was still angry afterward.
''Last year I ran out to left field in Houston and they called me out. Nobody tagged me. So this guy is safe? I just don't know where the line is,'' Beltre said.
Both Beltre and manager Ron Washington acknowledged the right play was for Beltre to throw to first for the sure out.
''It was right there for us. We just didn't put it away, and that's on all of us,'' Washington said.
The day began ominously for the Rangers when star pitcher Yu Darvish was scratched from his scheduled start with stiffness in his neck. Fill-in Scott Baker gave up three hits over six innings and Chris Gimenez hit a tiebreaking two-out RBI single in the sixth off Phil Hughes.
But Soria (1-2) took his first blown save in nine chances with a shaky ninth inning patched together by the Twins, who ended their four-game losing streak. Arcia hit a one-out double off the wall in right-center, just a few feet shy of where he homered off Baker in the second inning, and chugged home on the clutch hit by Nunez.
Then two batters later, the Twins won on the softest of winning contact.
''Oh, I feel a little scared of Arcia. He's crazy,'' the rookie Santana said, recounting the slugger's bear hug amid the swarm.
Glen Perkins (2-0) pitched a scoreless ninth for the victory, stranding Rios after a leadoff triple that Santana, normally a shortstop, appeared to misplay in center field and couldn't catch after getting twisted around.
Hughes had his winning streak stopped at five. Over his last five turns, he had a 1.08 ERA and a 27-0 strikeout-walk ratio.
Aaron Hicks saved Hughes from a huge deficit by sprinting to the warning track and snagging the ball with a perfectly timed leap above and beyond the center field wall to steal a three-run homer from Donnie Murphy, who settled for a sacrifice fly. Rougned Odor followed with an RBI double to get one of those runs back.
After giving up six runs in six innings in his only other start this season, last Friday at Detroit, Baker was supposed to resume a role as a long reliever. But he was in control the entire night against his former team.
NOTES: Washington passed Bobby Valentine on the franchise's all-time list for most games managed with 1,187. ... The Rangers will reinstate LHP Joe Saunders (0-1, 9.82) from the DL to start on Wednesday night, with RHP Kyle Gibson (4-4, 4.68 ERA) pitching for the Twins. ... Saunders was hit by a line drive on the left ankle in his first start on April 4, and after nearly two months of rehabilitation he will pitch with no restriction, Washington said. ... Gibson is 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA in four starts this year at home. ... Hughes has not walked a batter in six starts.