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Andrus makes a tough stop to retire Mauer

ARLINGTON -- At some point on Wednesday morning, the Rangers thought they were near a deal for Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran. Then the Giants stepped in with top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler, and the Rangers' hopes vanished.

The Rangers are still working hard on a deal with the Padres for reliever Heath Bell, and that could get done in the next three days. But on Wednesday night, the Rangers looked strangely like a team that could use offensive help.

For the second time in four games they were helpless against an opposing left-hander. This time it was Brian Duensing, who pitched the Twins to a 7-2 victory over the Rangers at the Ballpark in Arlington.

The Rangers drew 35,950 and have gone over the two-million mark in attendance for the season. They have done that in 15 of their last 16 seasons, but this is the earliest since 2001. The Rangers are now 3-3 on their current homestand that ends Thursday against the Twins and they are two games ahead of the Angels in the American League West.

Rangers starter Colby Lewis allowed four runs in 6 2/3 innings, and manager Ron Washington was fine with that. It was the offense that showed up missing on Wednesday night.

"I thought Colby did a good job," Washington said. "I'm not afraid of four runs. I figure we can get four runs on the board. It didn't happen. You have to give Duensing credit."

Duensing, just three days after Blue Jays left-hander Brett Cecil threw a four-hit shutout, held the Rangers to one run on seven hits in 6 2/3 innings. Three relievers did the rest against a lineup that scored 20 runs on Monday night and eight on Tuesday, when the opposition threw a right-hander against the Rangers.

"They just happen to be two good left-handers that threw a good game," Rangers infielder Michael Young said. "They were ahead in the count, they threw strikes ... that was pretty much it."

The Rangers entered the game leading the Majors in batting average, hits, runs, slugging percentage and extra-base hits for the month of July. But not because of games like this or against Cecil on Sunday.

"I don't think we're struggling against left-handers -- the guy today and the last game threw two pretty good games," shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "They had good stuff and they were making every pitch. They were painting pitches. It's always hard when you're facing a guy who is throwing every pitch for strikes and throwing it where he wants it."

The one common denominator is that both left-handers threw their great games after the Rangers placed third baseman Adrian Beltre on the disabled list. He is a power-hitting right-handed bat with a .578 slugging percentage against left-handers that will be missing from their lineup for the next couple of weeks.

"We miss him, no doubt about it," Washington said. "But we have guys going out there every day that have a lot of confidence and we have a lot of confidence in. We just didn't get it done tonight."

The Twins' big bats did. Some of these guys were missing when the Rangers lost three of four to the Twins six weeks ago in Minnesota, but they are making their presence felt this week at the Ballpark.

Joe Mauer, who missed two months with a leg injury, gave the Twins a 1-0 lead in the first inning with his first home run of the season. Michael Cuddyer, who has been there all season for the Twins, made it 2-0 in the fourth inning off Lewis with his 15th home run. It was his first on the road since June 4. It was also the 26th of the season off Lewis, the most in the AL.

"I felt I had pretty good stuff, I just didn't get away with very many mistakes," said Lewis, who had a five-game winning streak snapped and suffered his first lost since June 11 against the Twins. They remain the only AL team he has never beaten.

Mauer and Cuddyer had RBI singles in the fifth that made it 4-1. Jason Kubel, who missed seven weeks because of a sprained left foot, added a three-run double in the ninth off reliever Mark Lowe. The Twins are 5-2 against the Rangers this season and have won nine of their last 11 against them going back to last year.

"They beat us up pretty good," Washington said. "They put the ball in play, and once they get guys on base, they put pressure on you. They can do a lot of things, and now they've got guys back who can hit the ball out of the ballpark."

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