MINNEAPOLIS — The message from Twins manager Ron Gardenhire to Kevin Slowey was simple: Don't try to constantly make the perfect pitch and let the Minnesota defense do its job.
Slowey had better command, pitched to contact and had one of his best outings of the season, working into the seventh as the Twins beat the Texas Rangers 2-1 Friday night.
"Slowey was really good pitching in and out, he gave us a great effort and a great opportunity to win a ball game," Gardenhire said. "We've talked about more contact and getting deeper into games and tonight he did that, he got into the seventh. We can handle that, we can handle a couple innings out there [from the bullpen]."
Slowey (6-3) came in with only one start this season of at least six innings and had been throwing an extra bullpen session between starts to work on a mechanical issue. He limited Texas two six hits while striking out five over 6 2/3 innings. He won for the fourth time in his past five decisions and improved to 18-6 at home since 2008.
"My last couple of starts don't really have an effect on this start and this start probably won't have an effect on my next start," Slowey said. "We take them all as individual starts. I feel like every start is an individual challenge."
Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson said Slowey was better against the Rangers.
"His command has been off and he's strictly a command-type guy," Anderson said. "He's been missing a lot over the plate, more than he ever has. He's been overthinking and trying to do too much."
The performance was well timed as the Twins didn't do much against Rangers starter Colby Lewis (4-3).
Minnesota scored the winning run in the bottom of the sixth, but missed an opportunity to break the game open. The Twins had the bases loaded with no outs and Joe Mauer at the plate. The AL MVP grounded into a double play that scored Nick Punto to give Minnesota a 2-1 lead. Justin Morneau, who leads the AL in batting, followed by popping out to the catcher.
"Gave a free bag to the ninth-place hitter (Punto)," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Then things just fell apart right there."
The Twins scored the first run of the game after stringing together a pair of two-out hits. Orlando Hudson ran hard out of the box and turned a broken-bat flare to shallow right field into a double. Mauer followed with a RBI single up the middle.
The Rangers had an opportunity to score in the seventh after Vladimir Guerrero and Josh Hamilton opened the inning with singles. After getting two outs, Slowey walked Max Ramirez to load the bases and was replaced by Jose Mijares. Texas slugger Nelson Cruz — who did not start because of a strained hamstring — pinch hit and grounded out.
"Couldn't get the base hit, that's the game," Washington said.
Matt Guerrier pitched a 1-2-3 eighth for Central Division-leading Minnesota and Jon Rauch earned his 11th save.
Rauch had struggled of late, blowing a save and losing a game in his two previous appearances. Against the Rangers, the big right-hander quickly retired Guerrero and Hamilton to start the top of the ninth. After giving up a single to David Murphy, the fill-in for the injured Joe Nathan struck out rookie Justin Smoak to end the game.
West-leading Texas had an apparent home run by Ian Kinsler overturned after a video review and ruled foul. Kinsler doubled on the next pitch to right field. Guerrero, who entered Friday with the American League lead in runs batted in, then singled for his 43rd RBI.
"That's what they got the replay for is to get it right," Kinsler said. "And they got it right."
Guerrero had two hits for the Rangers and Michael Young had his 12-game hitting streak snapped.
Punto returned to the lineup after missing the past four games with a strained left ring finger. … Kinsler's overturned home run was the second time instant replay has been used at Target Field. Both calls involved the left field foul pole and both calls were overturned. … Cruz is now 0-for-13 for his career as a pinch hitter.