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MIN@TEX: Cruz makes a great catch to rob Willingham

ARLINGTON -- As the Rangers continued to struggle offensively on Friday night, their defense didn't do them any favors, either.

After scoring just seven runs while getting swept by the American League Central-leading White Sox this week, the Rangers returned home to face the last-place Twins. For the second straight game, they managed to score only once. They also committed two errors behind rookie left-hander Martin Perez, who took the loss in his second big league start, as the Rangers fell to the Twins, 5-1, at the Ballpark in Arlington.

"We've hit a funk," said Rangers manager Ron Washington. "We're just going to fight. That's all we can do. We still have a lot of baseball left. Right now, we're certainly not playing the way we want to play. We're going to show up tomorrow and battle again, hope that things go in our favor. We'll keep working."

The Rangers had baserunners in every inning but delivered just one hit in 10 at-bats with runners in scoring position -- an RBI single by Nelson Cruz in the sixth inning. Mike Napoli, who is in the midst of a 3-for-27 slump, and Yorvit Torrealba, who has three hits in his last 21 at-bats, combined to go 0-for-6 with three strikeouts with runners in scoring position.

"It's part of the season. I've been through it before," Napoli said. "That's not our offense. We believe we have a good offense and have the ability to score a lot of runs in a game. We're going to battle. We have a lot of veterans in this clubhouse."

Perez, who beat the A's last weekend in his first Major League start, was victimized by poor defense in his first loss as a big leaguer. After Joe Mauer's two-out RBI single in the third inning, Josh Willingham lofted a fly ball behind Napoli in shallow right field that should have ended the inning.

"Baseball's a funny game," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "Hitters go through streaks and slumps, and pitchers do the same thing, and fielders do the same thing. ... If we all knew why these crazy things happened -- where hitters go in slumps, fielders go in slumps and pitchers go in slumps -- we wouldn't have to worry about coaches."

Instead, the ball fell beside a lurching Napoli inches away from the foul line in fair territory. Mauer scored on the play, giving the Twins a 2-0 lead. Justin Morneau, who also homered in the seventh off Tanner Scheppers, hit an RBI single later in the third, and Mauer's sac fly in the fourth extended that lead to 4-0 before the Rangers scored their lone run in the sixth.

"That's part of the game," Perez said. "I feel good about my outing. The hits they got off me were not hard hits. I was in control of my game on the mound."

Josh Hamilton made an error on a fly ball in the top of fifth inning, then exited in the bottom of the inning due to lower back spasms. He said he was feeling better after the game and is day to day.

"You hate to lose five in a row, but we're not going to do good all the time," Hamilton said. "We'd like to win every night, but it doesn't work that way. Nobody's hitting the panic button. We have two more games until the All-Star break. Hopefully we can get these last two."

Perez gave up four runs, two earned, on six hits over six innings, striking out three and walking three while throwing 106 pitches, 67 for strikes. Twins starter Francisco Liriano, who walked six -- one shy of his career high -- picked up the win.

"He certainly showed some heart tonight," Washington said of Perez. "I didn't think he would get into the fifth inning. He got past the sixth. He's progressing, he's starting to feel comfortable, he's starting to make better pitches."

"He was pretty good," said Ben Revere, who singled, walked, and was hit by a pitch in his first three plate appearances against Perez. "He had movement. He had a good fastball and pretty good offspeed stuff. He had placement. He did pretty good considering it was his second start. He really kept his composure and hit his spots."

The Rangers finished June with five straight wins, scoring 38 runs during the streak, but have lost all five games they've played in July, getting outscored 34-9 this month. Despite the five-game skid, their longest in more than a year, the Rangers' 50-34 record is tied for the best 84-game start in team history.

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