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Mauer struggles on offence and punchless Twins blanked by Rangers 1-0

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MINNEAPOLIS - The tying run was 90 feet away with two outs in the seventh inning, and Joe Mauer swung and missed for strike three to complete his hitless night at the plate.

The Minnesota fans couldn't hold back the boos, not even for their homegrown star hitter.

"I'm probably a lot more frustrated than those people that were booing," Mauer said Wednesday night after going 0 for 4 in Minnesota's 1-0 loss to the Texas Rangers.

Twins starter Kyle Gibson gave up six hits and struck out four in six scoreless innings, but Minnesota's lineup left nine runners on base and went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position.

In Gibson's past two starts, the Twins are 0 for 16 with men in scoring position.

Not that the Rangers were that much more impressive on offence, but Luis Sardinas' RBI off Jared Burton (1-2) in the seventh to score Leonys Martin was enough.

Joe Saunders, who hadn't pitched in the majors in nearly two months, went five scoreless innings for the Rangers after being activated from the disabled list earlier in the day.

Shawn Tolleson (1-1) pitched 1 2-3 scoreless innings of relief for the win and Joakim Soria picked up his ninth save in 10 tries.

"You get a guy out there, you need a big hit, they got one, they flip one out in the outfield and there you have it," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

"We hit some balls pretty hard on the nose at people, and that's the way one of those games goes."

The Twins scored 43 runs during an 8-3 stretch earlier this month, but have managed only 10 in their past six.

They had their chances on Wednesday night, but stranded seven baserunners against Saunders, three on a bases-loaded fly out by Brian Dozier in the second.

"It was a battle for the first time coming back in almost two months," Saunders said. "It was a struggle, but I made some good pitches, got some clutch strikeouts against some pretty good hitters and kept the team right where it needed to be."

Mauer had his chance against reliever Neal Cotts in the seventh, but he chased a breaking ball for strike three. He's hitting .277 with 15 RBIs and six doubles on the season.

"I feel pretty good actually, which is even more frustrating," Mauer said. "I'm hitting a lot of balls hard and just not having much to show for it. So hopefully that turns here soon."

Elvis Andrus was ejected in the sixth inning after he muttered something to home plate umpire Pat Hoberg regarding a low strike called earlier in his at-bat.

It was the second ejection of the season for Andrus and Rangers manager Ron Washington moved Sardinas from second base to shortstop and put Rougned Odor at second base to fill the hole.

NOTES: Twins CF Aaron Hicks was a late scratch with a back issue, forcing manager Ron Gardenhire to start SS Danny Santana in CF. "I went out there trying to take some early BP, felt good. Then as soon as I start going out there for regular BP, it kind of stiffened up and started to get kind of painful," Hicks said, adding he would see how he felt in the morning. ... While on a rehab assignment for a groin injury, Twins RHP Mike Pelfrey felt soreness in his shoulder and was brought to Minnesota for examination. Another stint on the disabled list is likely after the Twins diagnose the injury. ... Alex Rios extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a single in the fourth. ... Gardenhire challenged a play in the seventh inning when Leonys Martin was ruled safe on a steal. Gardenhire claimed Dozier applied the tag, but the play was upheld after a 51-second review.

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