Twins use big innings early, late to rout Rangers 12-2, drop Texas into tie for AL West lead

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Twins took advantage of erratic pitching early, drawing four walks and scoring four runs in the first inning Friday night in a 12-2 victory over the Texas Rangers in a game that saw the benches clear.

The AL West-leading Rangers lost their season-high eighth straight game and dropped into a tie for the division lead with Seattle. Texas had held sole possession of the lead since before play on May 6.

Rangers starter Dane Dunning walked three of the first four batters he faced and eventually walked the bases loaded. Matt Wallner delivered a bases-loaded triple to put the AL Central-leading Twins up 3-0 in the first inning.

Ryan Jeffers added an RBI single in the four-run first. Jeffers was later hit by Dunning (9-6) in the third inning, which started a string of events that eventually led to the benches and bullpens clearing in the top of the fourth.

Dunning said postgame that he didn't intend to hit Jeffers with two outs and runners on the corners.

“I just didn't have command of really any of my pitches," Dunning said. “This loss was completely on me.”

After Jeffers was hit in the bottom of the third, Minnesota starter Sonny Gray (7-6) hit former Twin Mitch Garver in the top of the fourth. Players from both teams left their respective benches and bullpens and convened between home plate and the pitcher’s mound before things were broken up.

“When the benches clear, it becomes something to talk about,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “But watching the game closely and knowing what’s going on in the game, I honestly didn’t see anything that is going to be worthy of a long discussion of any kind.”

Prior to the benches clearing, Twins center fielder Joey Gallo and Baldelli were ejected by home plate umpire Carlos Torres. Gallo was tossed for arguing balls and strikes, just the third ejection of his nine-year career. For Baldelli, it was his 14th career ejection, and fifth this season.

Minnesota broke open the open with a six-run seventh. Edouard Julien hit a 435-foot three-run homer in the inning to put the Twins up 10-1. Carlos Correa also homered in the seventh, his 16th of the year.

“That was as much of a team win as you could have," Gray said. “The way that we played defense tonight and the way that we swung the bats, that was really, really fun to be a part of.”

Garver drove in the lone Texas run allowed by Gray (7-6), a solo home run in the second inning. The Rangers also scored an unearned run in the eighth.

“We've let some games slip out, and we're kind of on a little skid,” said Garver. “It's on us to bring it back together and do what we can do to scratch off some wins.”

Texas catcher Austin Hedges took the mound in the eighth inning, his first career pitching appearance. He surrendered a solo homer to Max Kepler and allowed two runs.

Gray matched his season high of seven innings. He struck out four and gave up six hits.

“It started with Sonny, and I think we rode both the offense and Sonny basically the whole game,” Baldelli said.

TRAINERS ROOM

Rangers: Manager Bruce Bochy didn’t have an update on right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, one day after Eovaldi threw a bullpen session as he works his way back from forearm soreness. He hasn’t pitched in a game since July 18.

Twins: Manager Rocco Baldelli said Byron Buxton is “getting closer” to a rehab assignment, but didn’t add anything beyond that. Buxton, who is out with a right hamstring strain, last played on Aug. 1.

UP NEXT

Rangers: RHP Max Scherzer (12-5, 3.77 ERA) was hit with a loss in his last start after winning his first three outings with the Rangers.

Twins: RHP Joe Ryan (9-8, 4.43 ERA) will take the mound for the Twins. Ryan has been on the 15-day IL since early August with a left groin strain.

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More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/MLB