MINNEAPOLIS -- Left-hander Cole Hamels registered his 16th career complete game and Nomar Mazara hit a two-run home run to propel the Rangers to a 4-1 win over the Twins on Saturday night at Target Field. Texas and Minnesota are now both four games back of the Royals for the second American League Wild Card spot.
Hamels allowed one unearned run on four hits and a walk, recording his first complete game since Oct. 4, 2015, and needing only 96 pitches to do so. That was his only other complete game with the Rangers and came on the last day of the '15 season, clinching the AL West. The lone run he gave up came on an RBI groundout from Ehire Adrianza to score Byron Buxton, who stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error from catcher Robinson Chirinos.
"Cole gave us exactly what we needed and gave our bullpen a break," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "Special night by Cole."
Twins right-hander Kyle Gibson, who was called up from Triple-A Rochester, was shaky early, giving up a two-run homer to Mazara in the first and a sac fly to Chirinos in the second, but settled in eventually. He was hurt, though, by a high pitch count and lasted just 5 1/3 innings, surrendering three runs on seven hits and two walks.
"A little frustrating the first couple of innings," Gibson said. "I just didn't execute. What we did in the third, fourth and fifth is more what we wanted to do, going in on guys. I didn't expect Mazara to be so aggressive on the first pitch. But after that, we settled in."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Mazara jumps on first pitch: Mazara gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead in the first inning when he smashed a first-pitch fastball from Gibson over the left-center field wall. It was Mazara's 14th home run of the year and his fourth on the first pitch of an at-bat. He began the night with just one home run in his last 20 games and 75 at-bats. This was only the second time this season and fourth time in 34 career home runs that Mazara has gone deep to the opposite field.
"I was ready for the first pitch," Mazara said. "If he threw me a fastball first pitch I was going to be ready for it. He did, middle away, and I was able to put a good swing on it."
Robinson gets Escobar: Drew Robinson made his sixth start in the outfield -- second in center -- and picked up his first assist. Eduardo Escobar, with one out in the fourth, smashed a grounder through the left side and into left-center. Robinson raced into the gap to get the ball and made a strong throw to nab Escobar.
"I didn't think he was going to be going, but I was just trying to get over there and cut the ball off," Robinson said. "Luckily I was able to make a good throw and threw him out."
"He was on tonight. You look at the cutter/changeup combo he had. He kept our guys off-balance. That's the name of the game in pitching -- messing up timing and going in and out." -- Gibson, on Hamels
The Rangers had runners on first and second with one out in the fourth when Chirinos crushed a one-hop smash to the left side. Twins shortstop Jorge Polanco made a terrific backhanded play on his knees, then twirled to start an inning-ending double play. The Rangers led 3-0 at the time and had a chance to break the game open.
"That was highlight-worthy," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "That ball took a funny hop and he was able to snare it. He did a nice job finding his balance and throwing to second to turn the double play."
It was one of several stellar plays turned in by the left side of the Twins' infield. With one out in the fifth, third baseman Escobar charged a slow chopper off the bat of Elvis Andrus, barehanding and firing to first for the out. Later, with two outs in the eighth and the infield shifted, Escobar dove to snag a speedy grounder hit by Rougned Odor, then threw to first from his knees to end the inning.
Rangers:Nick Martinez pitches against the Twins at 1:10 p.m. CT Sunday at Target Field. Martinez is 0-1 with a 6.06 ERA in three career starts against the Twins but will be facing them for the first time in almost two years.
Twins: Right-hander Jose Berrios (9-5. 3.57 ERA) is set to start in the series finale against the Rangers on Sunday at 1:10 p.m. CT. Berrios is coming off a strong start, allowing one run on two hits over seven innings against the Padres on Tuesday.
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