- Associated Press - Saturday, July 2, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The Rangers’ defense let them down in the first inning, setting the tone for their worst game of the season.

Chi Chi Gonzalez recorded just two outs in his second start of the season, and Texas lost 17-5 to the Minnesota Twins on Saturday.

Ryan Rua and Robinson Chirinos homered for the AL-leading Rangers, who had won five of seven. Rua and Chirinos each had two hits and two RBIs.

Max Kepler homered twice and set a Twins rookie record by driving in seven runs. Eduardo Nunez had four hits for Minnesota, which scored at least three runs in four of the first five innings.

Gonzalez (0-1) walked two batters and gave up two hits in Minnesota’s four-run first. He was hurt by poor defense, with misplays on three consecutive batters extending the inning.

With two on and one out, Gonzalez snagged Brian Dozier’s comebacker, but Rougned Odor dropped the throw to second base, erasing a chance for an inning-ending double play. Kepler then grounded softly to first baseman Mitch Moreland, who threw home too late to force Nunez.

Finally, Eduardo Escobar hit a potential double-play grounder, but shortstop Elvis Andrus dropped Odor’s feed. He recovered in time to retire Kepler, but that opened the door for Juan Centeno’s two-run single.

Rangers manager Jeff Banister pulled Gonzalez after 38 pitches.

“You get into a situation like that - young kid, could have pushed him to one more hitter,” Banister said. “Wherever that takes him, he’s out of that game anyway. I’m going to protect him.”

Cesar Ramos replaced Gonzalez and was charged with seven runs in 2 1/3 innings as the Twins worked their way through the Texas bullpen. The Rangers finally turned to backup catcher Bryan Holaday for the last four outs.

“Super frustrating,” Gonzalez said. “I felt good going into the game. I had my confidence up. Tough one to swallow.”

Tyler Duffey (4-6) was the beneficiary of the outburst, pitching six innings for his second straight win. He gave up four runs and eight hits.

NEW BULLPEN ACE?

Holaday entered with two out in the seventh inning and needed only 18 pitches to get the final four outs. He used a “hybrid,” as he put it, to retire all four batters on lazy fly balls to the outfield.

“I mess around pretty much every day,” he said of his preparation for pitching. “Obviously no one wants that, but when you play 162 games it’s going to happen. I’m just glad I could help out and save some arms.”

Holaday said he had pitched once in Triple-A, retiring both batters he faced.

“Hopefully I don’t get overexposed,” he deadpanned.

INTERNATIONAL SIGNINGS

Saturday was the first day of the 2016 MLB international signing period. The Rangers announced deals with six players, including four from Venezuela - outfielder Angel Aponte, catcher David Garcia, infielder Emir Velasquez and shortstop Jember Gutierrez. They also signed outfielder Daniel Quiceno from Colombia and outfielder Danny Drullard from the Dominican Republic.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Twins: RHP Trevor May (back) pitched a scoreless inning for Triple-A Rochester in his injury rehab assignment on Friday. General manager Terry Ryan said that May would pitch again on Saturday night, his first time pitching on consecutive days since he was put on the DL on June 10. Ryan said May is “relatively close” to returning to the Twins’ 25-man roster. … SS Escobar left with a strained left hamstring. He is day to day.

UP NEXT

Rangers LHP Cole Hamels has won four straight starts, giving up just two earned runs in 27 2/3 innings. He’ll look to extend that streak on Sunday against Minnesota’s Kyle Gibson, who earned his first win of the season on Tuesday. Gibson pitched seven innings in a 4-0 win over the White Sox.

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