Denard Span hit a tying double before sliding past Rodriguez with the go-ahead run in the sixth inning when the throw beat Span to home plate but slipped between the legs of the 13-time Gold Glove catcher, completing Minnesota's rally for a 5-4 victory Wednesday night.
The Twins' recovery from a 4-0 deficit ruined Rodriguez's first start for the Rangers since the last game of the 2002 season and came a day after they rallied from 5-0 down to spoil the catcher's arrival in a trade with Houston. This time, the come back also ruined a three-hit night for Rodriguez.
"Wins like this are very important for our team," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "The last two nights we've battled against a very good team."
Span was on second base when Orlando Cabrera singled to Rangers center field Marlon Byrd. His throw reached the plate on one hop just as Span was starting his slide, and the ball glanced off Rodriguez's glove.
"I left it a little too high," Byrd said. "I know I need to hit the grass and give Pudge a better hop. It's a game of inches."
The Rangers fell a game behind Boston in the AL wild-card race.
Scott Baker (11-7) escaped trouble three times to keep the Twins close. He gave up nine hits and four runs and struck out six in 5 1/3 innings.
After Rodriguez started a string of four straight singles that gave the Rangers a 3-0 lead in the third, Baker settled down and retired the heart of the Rangers lineup in order.
Rodriguez's double in the fourth gave Texas a 4-0 lead and put runners at second and third with no outs. Two infield groundballs and a strikeout later, Baker was out of trouble again. In the fifth, Baker escaped a one-out triple by Hank Blalock with strikeouts of David Murphy and Ian Kinsler.
"That start could have very easily gone south fast," said Baker, who won his fifth straight decision. "But I continued to make good pitches and for the most part it worked out."
Baker's resilience paid off in the sixth, which started with consecutive doubles from Michael Cuddyer and Joe Crede. After Rangers starter Kevin Millwood got two outs, No. 9 hitter Nick Punto reached base for the third straight time with a single that scored Crede to make it 4-3. Span's double scored Punto to tie it.
The Twins wiped out a Texas lead with a four-run sixth for the second night in a row. As a result, Millwood (9-8) fell to 0-7 lifetime against the Twins.
"It's important to get a win every night," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We thought we had wins the last two nights."
Jose Mijares pitched a career-high 2 2/3 innings, allowing no hits and striking out three to protect Minnesota's one-run lead. Joe Nathan pitched a perfect ninth for his 31st save and second in two games after going all of August without a save chance.
Fans, including one displaying a sign that said "We missed you Pudge," cheered wildly all night for Rodriguez, who played the first 11 seasons of his career with the Rangers.
The crowd had barely settled from a standing ovation before Rodriguez's first at-bat when he singled on a grounder up the middle leading off the third inning. Rodriguez went to third on a single by Elvis Andrus and scored on Julio Borbon's bloop single. Michael Young followed with a two-run single to right, giving the Rangers a 3-0 lead.
"I've seen it before," Washington said. "I don't think anyone around here is surprised. He did a great job back there tonight."
Rodriguez was challenged defensively on tough back-to-back plays in the top of the third. He made the first, jumping up to grab a slow roller by Delmon Young on the first-base foul line and making the throw with Young blocking his view. Carlos Gomez followed with a bunt that was ruled a single after Rodriguez couldn't make the barehand pickup.
Twins 1B Jason Morneau missed his second straight start with recurring dizziness stemming from an inner ear infection. Morneau continues to take medication and is day to day. ... The Rangers put LHP Eddie Guardado on the disabled list with left knee inflammation and recalled RHP Willie Eyre from Triple-A Oklahoma City. The Guardado move was retroactive to Saturday.