MINNEAPOLIS -- The game started with the temperature at 49 degrees and the winds blowing 25-30 mph toward left field. The field was still wet from pregame rain and the drizzle returned in the late innings.After a 4-1 victory over the Twins at Target Field, Rangers manager Ron Washington scoffed at the notion that tempest conditions might impact his team's ability to play defense. "They can play," Washington said. "We're not going to let the conditions stop us from doing what we need to do. They know how to play defense. They take pride in it." The Rangers certainly did that behind Matt Harrison, who held the Twins to one run on seven hits, two walks and four strikeouts. There were a couple of diving catches by Nelson Cruz and David Murphy in the outfield, two key double plays turned in the infield, several slick plays by second baseman Ian Kinsler and a crucial ninth-inning stop by shortstop Elvis Andrus. That play saved Alexi Ogando from getting into big trouble on a night when he was serving as temporary closer. The Rangers decided to give Joe Nathan one more night off even though he said he was ready to pitch. "We just wanted to give him an extra day," Washington said. "He'll be in there tomorrow." But Ogando got the job done and the Rangers have won six of their first eight games. Their starters are now 6-0 with a 2.05 ERA and the staff's overall ERA is 2.38 but it was the defense that stood out on a blustery Friday the 13th at Target Field. "Oh man, it was outstanding," said Harrison after running his record to 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA. "Whatever ball was put in play, they made the plays behind me." Harrison also facilitated the defensive work with his pitching, and the Rangers won at Target Field for only the second time in 11 games since the place opened in 2010. "He was throwing strikes, 1-2-3 ... that's always good for your defense," third baseman Adrian Beltre said. "You have to be on your toes. He got a lot of ground balls and we stayed ready. When he needed the double play, he got it. He pitched great tonight." The Rangers made their defensive presence felt in the first inning when Cruz made a diving catch on Jamey Carroll's blooper and Kinsler ranged far up the middle to take away a hit from Joe Mauer. In the second, with one out and runners at the corners, Murphy made a diving catch on Danny Villaneuva's line drive. That brought home the Twins only run for a 1-0 lead but helped prevent a bigger inning. Trevor Plouffe's double put runners on second and third but Harrison struck out Luke Hughes to end the inning. Harrison, after the Rangers scored three in the fourth to take the lead, got another big strikeout in the fifth when he got Mauer to chase a cut fastball with two on and two out. The Twins were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. "It was a tough night at the plate for us mostly because of their pitching," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Harrison was outstanding ... lots of movement on his pitching. I talked to some lefties and the ball was really diving in on them hard. Made them conscious inside and then used the slider to finish them off." Harrison induced double plays in the sixth and eighth. The one in the sixth was hit right at Beltre but the one in the eighth was a little tricky. Harrison was holding a 4-1 lead when Carroll led off the inning with a single to right. Mauer then hit a sharp grounder that Kinsler fielded going to his right to start another double play. "After the second inning, I was just trying to make pitches, stay down in the zone and use all my pitches," Harrison said. "They made all the plays behind me."
Ogando took over in the ninth and led off the inning by hitting Josh Willingham with a pitch. Ryan Doumit singled to center and the crowd started to stir. Valencia followed with a sharp grounder back to the mound that Ogando knocked down, scrambled after and then fired to second base trying to get the force.The throw bounced but Andrus, with the runner coming in hard, made the catch on a short hop and kept his foot on the bag for the out. "That was my glove ... give credit to my glove," Andrus said. "I didn't see the ball, I just put my glove down there and it caught it." It was the last of a series of nice defensive plays by the Rangers. Ogando struck out pinch-hitter Chris Parmelee and retired Sean Burroughs on a popup down the left-field line to end the game. On a classic April evening in the upper Midwest, the Rangers defense held to the end.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.