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TEX@MIN: Darvish hurls 5 2/3 innings of two-run ball

MINNEAPOLIS -- Chris Parmelee hit a grounder down the line and Rangers first baseman Brandon Snyder scooped it up. He called off pitcher Joe Nathan coming over to cover, stepped on the bag himself and kept the ball tucked in his glove as he headed off to the Rangers' customary postgame victory line.

The baseball eventually ended up in the blue jeans pocket of reliever Robbie Ross to commemorate a memorable afternoon for multiple Rangers in a 6-2 victory over the Twins at Target Field on Saturday afternoon.

"You're first win is your first win ... it's pretty cool," said Ross, who claimed his trophy after relieving Yu Darvish with the bases loaded and two out in the sixth, and getting the biggest out of the afternoon.

Snyder, also enjoying a day to remember after being in lineup for the first time this season, then started a two-run seventh with his third hit of the afternoon to help the Rangers break a 2-2 tie. Texas ended up winning for the seventh time in its first nine games.

"Any time you get a chance to start and contribute like that, you'll remember it," Snyder said. "The thing I will remember most is getting the win."

The Rangers did that and Nathan, pitching in a non-save situation, retired the final three outs in his first appearance at Target Field against his former team. Nathan, who was with the Twins from 2004-11, gave up a single to Justin Morneau and a double to Josh Willingham to start the ninth before retiring three straight hitters.

"Fun, fun to go against former teammates," Nathan said. "Morneau's going to, I'm sure, let me know he got a hit off me for the next 12 months. But again, I'm excited. ... It felt good to get through an inning, pitch out of the stretch and not give up a run. I think that was the first time, counting this spring, that I've been in the stretch and didn't give up a run."

The Rangers are 2-0 when Darvish is on the mound, even though he is their only starter who has failed to pitch six complete innings yet. But he was better than his first start, allowing two runs on nine hits, four walks and four strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings. Considering that he had allowed five runs over the same span in his first start against the Mariners, manager Ron Washington seemed reasonable when he suggested Darvish's latest outing was an improvement.

"He was much better," Washington said. "If we make a couple of plays behind him, he could have had a shutout going into the sixth inning. He had much better command. It's progress. The next time he takes the ball ... you never know what will happen, but he's certainly moving in the right direction."

In 11 1/3 innings over two starts, Darvish has allowed 17 hits, nine walks and two hit batters. Opponents are hitting .340 off him. But he was able to limit the damage on Saturday afternoon by holding the Twins to 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Opponents are hitting .178 with runners in scoring position after nine games against all Rangers pitchers.

"I gave up hits, but they weren't all hard hits," Darvish said. "Some of those just got through the infield. I'm still going through the process and adjusting. If I was to come over here with no problems and no worries, putting up the same numbers as in Japan, that would make me a genius."

Darvish only had one 1-2-3 inning on Saturday. He had multiple runners on base in four of six innings, including his last three. Those three innings taxed Darvish to the limit, but he also helped himself out with one alert defensive play.

The Twins had runners at the corners with two outs when Darvish bounced a slider to catcher Mike Napoli. The ball bounded to the left but not too far. Napoli hustled to get it as Ryan Doumit broke for home but Darvish beat him there and made the inning-ending tag.

"As soon as I threw the pitch, I knew it would be a wild pitch," Darvish said. "It happened so quickly, I threw it and ran right away."

Darvish, given a 2-1 lead by Josh Hamilton's 425-foot home run in the third, also struck out Doumit with the bases loaded in the fifth. But the Twins tied it up in the sixth on a two-out run-scoring double by Denard Span. Darvish then loaded the bases by hitting Jamey Carroll and walking Joe Mauer. That's when Washington summoned Ross to face Morneau.

"I didn't want to take any chances with Morneau," Washington said. "One swing and it's four runs."

So he gave the ball to Ross, who was also making just his second big league appearance. But this is why he's on the roster and he got Morneau to pop out to end the inning. The Rangers then put him in position to get the win with RBI singles by Adrian Beltre and Michael Young in the top of the seventh.

"I was more nervous in that situation than I was in my first big league game," Ross said. "It was like, 'Wow, here we go. Just get it in there and make something happen.'"

He did and it was something he can remember from a memorable afternoon. Comments