TEX@MIN: Cruz clubs a long RBI single off the wall

MINNEAPOLIS -- Nelson Cruz has a reputation for being a streaky hitter, and right now he is in the middle of a notable hot stretch.

The Rangers outfielder laced a single into center field Thursday in the second inning of Texas' 2-1 series-opening win against the Twins to bring in his 12th RBI in five games. That put him one game shy of tying the longest RBI streak of his career.

The reason for Cruz's recent torrid success is obvious, Texas manager Ron Washington says.

"Look at where he's getting his big stuff -- in the big part of the field," Washington said. "Even his singles have been over the shortstop's head or they have been little bloops into right field. Then his big stuff has been left-center. When he stays in the big part of the field he is at his best."

Young hurlers showing promise in Rangers rotation

TEX@MIN: Tepesch tosses 6 2/3 frames of one-run ball

MINNEAPOLIS -- There's been very little letdown for the Rangers in the first month of the season.

An efficient 2-1 victory on Thursday in the first of a four-game series with the Minnesota Twins pushed the Rangers to their 15th win, maintaining one of the best starts in baseball (15-7). Having yet to lose a series this season, Texas is the only team that has not lost back-to-back games.

A surging pitching staff that has shown impressive depth in the season's early goings has rooted the Rangers' furious start. From ace Yu Darvish's near perfect game in the second game of the year onward, the Rangers have allowed three runs or fewer in 15 of their 22 games and hold the lowest ERA in the American League.

And they've done it with young starters Nick Tepesch and Justin Grimm, who entered the year with little to no big league experience.

But their lack of experience has barely shown. Both have provided tremendous stability on the back end of the Rangers' rotation, with a combined 2.60 ERA in five starts.

Grimm, who pitched in five games last season, has a chance Friday to further lower his 2.70 ERA in his third start since being called up in early April to fill injured left-hander Matt Harrison's spot.

His start comes one day after Tepesch carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning of his fourth career appearance en route to a one-run, five-hit performance Thursday against the Twins.

Manager Ron Washington has been measured with his responses when asked if he's surprised with how well his pitching staff has fared, given the youth that dots both the starting rotation and the bullpen.

"We had to give these guys a chance, and by giving them a chance, we had to set up a boundary or an atmosphere," Washington said Friday. "I don't care if you're young. You have to get it done. It's that simple …They're earning their stripes."

Grimm labored through his first start as he made it through only four innings at Seattle, despite only surrendering two runs. But Washington noticed Grimm was starting to establish a comfort level by the time his next start rolled around 10 days later. Facing Seattle once again, Grimm struck out nine Mariners batters in six innings while allowing just one run.

"I was telling him to quit fighting himself," Washington said. "He said, 'Yeah, I was out there competing against myself instead of Seattle.' So I said why don't you change that and start competing against Seattle. The location of his pitches were better ... He still got into some trouble, but he was still able to make a pitch to get out of it."

Worth noting

• Texas utility man Jeff Baker, who has been nursing a bruised right knee since Tuesday, is still at least one day away from returning to the starting lineup.

Washington had hinted Thursday that the right-handed-hitter would be used to counter Twins southpaw Scott Diamond on Friday, but Washington decided to hold off from reinserting him into the lineup until Saturday.

"He moved around and worked out out there so we'll have him go through BP, and if he says he's ready to pinch-hit I'll get him back in there tomorrow," Washington said.

• Ever since Texas catcher A.J. Pierzynski was traded away from the Twins in 2003 in a deal with San Francisco, he has been welcomed back to Minnesota by jeers from the local fans.

Without fail, Pierzynki received a smattering of boos when he headed to the plate in the first game of the Rangers' four-game series with the Twins on Thursday. Even 10 years after his six-year stint with the team that drafted him, the unfriendly welcome still amuses Pierzynski.

"I just laugh, because we just came from Anaheim, so we were joking earlier that we're on my standing ovation tour around the country right now," Pierzynski said with a slight grin. "I think a lot of people forget I actually did play here once, but it's part of it and I understand. I get a kick out of it and a nice chuckle."