MINNEAPOLIS — Vance Worley is still looking for that elusive first win in a Twins uniform.
The right-hander labored through five innings Thursday against the Texas Rangers and exited with his team down 2-0. Minnesota couldn’t rally against Texas rookie Nick Tepesch, however, and Worley was hit with his third loss of the season as the Twins fell 2-1.
Worley now 0-3 with a 6.38 ERA in his first five starts as a Twin, but his last two outings have been signs of progress. Last time out prior to Thursday, Worley allowed just one run in seven innings in a 2-1 win over the Chicago White Sox. Worley earned a no-decision in that game but struck out a season-high seven batters while walking just two.
Thursday’s outing wasn’t quite as impressive for Worley, but his team still had a chance when he left after five innings. Worley struck out three Rangers batters and allowed six hits. The first run came in the second inning when Nelson Cruz singled home Adrian Beltre. In that inning, Worley needed 37 pitches to get three outs and was at 51 pitches through two innings.
“I thought everything was coming out of my hand a little up the first couple innings,” Worley said. “After that, I settled down and everything worked the way I wanted it to.”
Worley worked through two scoreless innings in the third and fourth before surrendering one more run in the top of the fifth. A one-out single by Leonys Martin turned into a run when Elvis Andrus doubled with two outs, scoring Martin. After striking out Lance Berkman to end the fifth, Worley’s night was done after 102 pitches.
“Worley scuffled through the first couple; the balls were up, a lot of pitches,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He kind of settled in and got through five innings. It wasn’t an easy five innings, 100-plus pitches. … He competed, and then the bullpen did a really nice job. We had our chances.”
It was the third time this year that Worley has lasted five or fewer innings. But after allowing 14 combined runs in two straight starts, Worley has now just given up three runs over his last two outings. Thursday’s game came against a Rangers offense that scored nine runs in one inning on Wednesday against the Angels.
“After the second inning, I kept the ball down, had my quick innings,” Worley said. “I wasn’t getting hit hard. I gave up a couple of harder hits, but for the most part I kept the ball in the infield and did my job.”
Nathan gets save against former team: Joe Nathan spent seven seasons with the Minnesota Twins and was the team’s closer as recently as 2011. The veteran right-hander signed with Texas as a free agent after Minnesota didn’t bring him back for the 2012 season.
Nathan faced the Twins five times last season — his first year with the Rangers — and picked up a save in early April at Target Field in 2012. On Thursday, Nathan was back to his old ways as he slammed the door against his former club. Nathan pitched a scoreless ninth inning to preserve Texas’ 2-1 win and earned his seventh save of the year.
“He’s on the other side now, but good memories with (Nathan),” Gardenhire said. “Obviously we wanted to get him tonight. He’s a closer. He’s bona fide, as they say. He knows what he’s doing. He made some big pitches when he had to.”
Nathan gave up a two-out single to Trevor Plouffe in the bottom of the ninth but got Ryan Doumit to fly out to deep left field for the final out of the game. It marked Nathan’s 305th career save — 260 of which came with the Twins, a franchise record.