Kubel’s 3-run HR helps Twins get by Rangers

Talk about the Minnesota Twins, and All-Stars Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau quickly become the primary topic.

Maybe it’s time for the slugger who follows them in the lineup to be a part of the conversation.

Jason Kubel hit a tiebreaking three-run homer after the recognized stars reached base and the Twins beat the Texas Rangers 5-3 Friday night, putting a damper on Josh Hamilton‘s first home game in more than six weeks.

“He’s kind of that silent guy,” Twins starter Glen Perkins said. “The chances of all three of those guys not having a good night are very slim. Kubel manages to step up in situations where we need it.”

Kubel’s 15th homer of the season, after consecutive hits by Mauer and Morneau, put the Twins up 5-2 in the third against Vicente Padilla (7-5).

“He doesn’t get talked about too much around here, but if you look at his numbers … that’s a pretty good first half,” manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Kubel, who missed all of 2005 because of knee surgery, is hitting .314 with 48 RBIs through 78 games in his third full season with the Twins. He had 20 homers and 78 RBIs last season.

Hamilton had three hits, including a two-run homer and an RBI single, in his first home game since May 31. That was the day before the All-Star starting center fielder went on the disabled list for the second time this season – both times, he got hurt crashing into an outfield wall while making a catch.

“I just get up there with a clear mind, don’t worry about the results,” Hamilton said.

Texas, which lost three of its last four games before the All-Star break, led 2-0 after Hamilton pulled a pitch just inside the right-field pole in the first for his seventh homer. His run-scoring single came in the fifth.

Hamilton was activated from the DL on July 6, in time for the Rangers‘ seven-game trip before the break. The slugger didn’t have an RBI in those seven games, and had only two singles in 19 at-bats after going 5 for 8 the first two games.

“It was nice to see Ham swing the bat. After that, we couldn’t get anything going,” manager Ron Washington said. “We had Perkins working pretty hard. We just couldn’t get anything going offensively.”

Perkins (5-5) threw 102 pitches while allowing three runs over five innings. The left-hander beat the Rangers for the third straight time, having given up only two runs in 12 1-3 innings in his two starts against them last season.

Joe Nathan, the Twins‘ other All-Star, worked the ninth for his 24th save in 26 chances. The right-hander has thrown 20 2-3 scoreless innings over 22 appearances since May 21.

Carlos Gomez, the young Twins‘ speedster known as “Go-Go”, had a two-run triple off the base of the wall in left-center field in the second to tie the game at 2. Gomez slid headfirst into third, his hand reaching the base just before Michael Young applied the tag.

Texas turned four double plays, increasing its majors-leading total to 104. The first came before consecutive singles by Joe Crede and Brendan Harris in the second set up the tying hit by Gomez.

The Rangers had another nifty defensive play to start the third, when rookie shortstop Elvis Andrus made a barehanded scoop of a deflected ball behind the base and threw out Alexi Casilla. But Mauer and Morneau followed with their hits before Kubel’s homer.


Young’s single in the fifth was his 1,595th career hit, tying Juan Gonzalez for third on the Rangers list behind Ivan Rodriguez (1,723) and Rafael Palmeiro (1,692). … Twins RHP Kevin Slowey played catch Friday and expects to throw a bullpen session Saturday in his rehab from a strained right wrist. Slowey, on the disabled list since July 4, said the wrist feels much improved. … Minnesota plays its first 10 games after the All-Star break on the road. The Rangers are home for 13 of 16 games.