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Twins struggle again with runners in scoring position, as Martin runs Rangers to 5-4 win

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MINNEAPOLIS - While the Minnesota Twins had plenty of runners on base again, most of them didn't make it home.

It is the latest reason why they are losing, following a successful stretch earlier this month.

Leonys Martin doubled twice and scored three times, including the go-ahead run in the eighth inning, and the Texas Rangers beat Twins 5-4 on Thursday to win their second straight four-game series on the road.

Shin-Soo Choo hit a three-run double in the second for the Rangers, but the Twins took a 4-3 lead in the fifth inning on Josh Willingham's first home run of the season, a no-doubt drive to the second deck above left-centre field.

Trevor Plouffe and Willingham hit RBI singles in the third, but the Twins have only 14 runs in their last seven games, going 6 for 52 with runners in scoring position.

"Pitching is doing well. They're keeping us in ball games. It's just all about hitting with runners in scoring position," said Brian Dozier, who struck out in the eighth inning with nobody on base but still slammed his bat down in disgust.

Alexi Ogando (2-2) got four outs for the victory, and Joakim Soria retired the last two batters for his 10th save after Neal Cotts started the ninth by getting Joe Mauer to ground out. Soria saved the last two games of the series after he had his first blown chance of the season in Tuesday's 4-3 loss.

"The game runs in cycles, and you'll go through your good spells and bad and you hope you can get away from these streaks," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "But you have to swing. We left a lot of people on base in this last series."

Martin hit a leadoff double in the eighth against Casey Fien (3-2), moved up on a sacrifice bunt and sprinted home on a sacrifice fly by Rougned Odour, beating a sweep tag by catcher Josmil Pinto. The throw by centre fielder Danny Santana, a rookie shortstop playing out of position, was off the plate and up the line.

The Rangers tied it at 4 when Martin doubled and scored on Robinson Chirinos' single in the sixth. Samuel Deduno gave up nine hits while striking out two and was removed with one out in that inning.

Bases-loaded, nobody-out situations for both teams in the second inning went opposite ways.

Deduno moved within one strike of escaping without any damage after an infield popup and a strikeout. But Choo drove a 2-2 curveball down the left-field line. Martin scored easily from first base to put the Rangers ahead 3-0.

Nick Martinez dodged trouble in the bottom of the frame when Pinto sent a soft roller back to the mound. After a short throw home for a forceout, Martinez got Eduardo Escobar to line into a double play.

No team in baseball this season has been hit harder by injuries than the Rangers, whose rotation has been depleted by long-term disabled-list visits for Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Martin Perez, but they have begun to find their stride with eight wins in their last 11 games. They took three of four at Detroit last week.

Martinez's emergence has been helpful. The rookie was charged with more than three earned runs for the first time in five starts. He allowed nine hits and walked two in 5 2-3 innings.

Mauer was booed Wednesday when he struck out with a runner on third to end the seventh inning. Though he singled and scored in the third Thursday, the $23 million man ended the sixth with a groundout to second with two runners on. Mauer has only 15 RBIs, a season pace for just 47.

Willingham's homer, though, was a sign of promise. Both he and Oswaldo Arcia made solid contact all series after returning from wrist injuries.

"We've got to get a few other guys going," Gardenhire said.

But even Willingham hasn't been immune to the runners-in-scoring-position struggles.

"Obviously, the idea is to get them in," he said, "so yeah, it's been a little frustrating."

NOTES: Deduno walked Martin, ending a streak by Twins pitchers of 131 straight batters without an unintentional walk. ... The day after he was scratched from the lineup because of back spasms, Twins CF Aaron Hicks was available to play, though held out again as a precaution. ... The Twins will be in New York for three games this weekend, with RHP Ricky Nolasco (2-5, 6.12 ERA) taking the mound Friday against Yankees LHP Vidal Nuno (1-1, 5.49 ERA).

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