Chuck Knoblauch of the Twins and Edgar Martinez of the Mariners
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ Chuck Knoblauch of the Twins and Edgar Martinez of the Mariners have a lot in common these days. Not only are they 1-2 in the AL batting race, they’re hardly household names.
Knoblauch homered and doubled twice Tuesday night, and rookie Brad Radke pitched a three-hit shutout as Minnesota defeated the Texas Rangers 2-0.
Knoblauch, who had three hits and two runs scored, raised his average to .341 _ second to Martinez’s .364.
``I’m seeing the ball just as it’s coming out of the pitcher’s hand,″ Knoblauch said. ``It’s not as big as a watermelon, but I am seeing the ball extremely well.
``My first few years, I did what I had to do to stay in the big leagues,″ the second baseman explained. ``But by now, I’m able to do different things with different pitches. It starts in batting practice, and if you stay with your approach, it doesn’t go away. You still have hot and cold streaks, but you’re still able to put the bat on the ball and drive it. It’s just that sometimes the ball goes right at the fielders and sometimes it doesn’t.″
Practically all season for Knoblauch, the ball usually finds a hole.
``I’m not trying to hit with more power or anything like that,″ he added. ``But I’ve found out how to do what I need to do, and I can’t see it changing.″
After losing six of eight, the Rangers still maintained a half-game lead over Milwaukee and Seattle in the AL wild-card race.
Radke (10-12) retired the last 14 in a row en route to his first complete game and the Twins fourth. He walked two and struck out three.
``Ten wins is great for a rookie on a team that’s lost a lot more than it’s won,″ Knoblauch said. ``I’m excited for him. He was throwing everything for strikes, and was in complete control of the game. It wasn’t a fluke.″
Last year Radke went 12-10 with a 2.66 ERA for Double-A Nashville. Tuesday’s performance lowered his ERA from 5.48 to 5.15. He tied Bert Blyleven for fifth all-time in wins for a Twins rookie.
``You can’t pitch like that all the time,″ Radke said. ``But I think I am getting used to big-league hitters. I’d like to get 12 wins to match last year, and anything more would be a bonus.″
Twins manager Tom Kelly was equally impressed.
``To shut the Rangers lineup down, you have to pitch a whale of a ballgame. It’d be hard to call him an ace just a year out of Double-A ball, but he did pitch a magnificent game.″
Kevin Gross (7-13) allowed two runs and six hits in eight innings. He walked three and struck out seven. Gross was also the victim of Minnesota’s only other shutout: Kevin Tapani’s six-hit, 4-0 victory over the Rangers on June 3.
``I thought I threw the ball about as well as I can throw it,″ Gross said. ``But Knoblauch hurt me the whole game. One guy shouldn’t cost you the game, but he did.″
Minnesota took a 1-0 lead in the first when Knoblauch led off with his 23rd double, took third on a passed ball and scored on Pedro Munoz’s single.
Knoblauch led off the third with his eighth home run to make it 2-0.
The only Texas baserunner to reach as far as third was Rusty Greer, who doubled to lead off the second and advanced on an infield out after Ivan Rodriguez lined to shortstop. But Craig Worthington flied out to end the inning.
Only one other Texas player, Mark McLemore, reached second. He walked to lead off the fifth, and moved up on Benji Gil’s one-out infield single. Otis Nixon and Jeff Frye flied out to end the mild threat.
Still, Knoblauch was the man on everybody’s mind.
``Knoblauch does a lot of things well and he plays hard,″ Rangers manager Johnny Oates said. ``I’ve told him so myself. He’s a good one, a real keeper.″