Rangers manager Ron Washington decided to give his closer one more day of rest after a long week, and Matt Harrison had already done most of the heavy lifting to put Texas in position for another victory.
Harrison breezed through eight innings and Ian Kinsler homered to lead Texas to a 4-1 victory over the Twins on Friday night.
Harrison (2-0) allowed one run on seven hits with four strikeouts, and Elvis Andrus had three hits for the Rangers.
"He was pounding the zone," Andrus said of Harrison, the 26-year-old left-hander who started Game 7 of the World Series last year. "He's been doing that since last year. When he's good, he's pounding the zone with first-pitch strikes. He's got good stuff, and every time he gets ahead, he's really tough."
When Washington went to Alexi Ogando for the ninth, there were some eyebrows raised.
Nathan is 0-2 with two saves in his first four outings, including a blown save in his previous outing, against Seattle on Wednesday. Making his first appearance in the place he spent the previous seven years would have been a fitting way to try to bounce back.
But he had thrown in five of six days, including a warm-up, before getting Thursday off, so Washington decided to give him one more day of rest, even though he was back in the town where he became a star.
"There's nothing wrong with Joe," Washington said. "He's ready to go. I'll give him the ball tomorrow."
Anthony Swarzak (0-2) gave up four runs on nine hits with three strikeouts in seven innings for the Twins. Danny Valencia had a sacrifice fly in the second inning, but that was all they could muster against Harrison.
Harrison threw six shutout innings in his first outing of the season and had little trouble against a Twins offense that has scored more than two runs just twice in the first seven games. He was in a little jam in the fifth when the Twins had runners on the corners and two outs, but the big lefty struck out Joe Mauer to end the inning. He also got Mauer to ground into a double play after Jamey Carroll led off the eighth with a single.
"His ball was diving all over the place," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Michael Young added two hits and an RBI for Texas.
The Rangers got to Swarzak in the fourth, stringing together four straight singles and taking advantage of an error by second baseman Luke Hughes to take a 3-1 lead. Swarzak was able to limit the damage, turning a bases-loaded, no-out jam into just one run on a sacrifice fly from David Murphy before getting to the dugout.
Valencia, for one, was hoping to see his former teammate on the mound. Nathan might be a four-time All-Star and one of the best closers in the American League over the past decade, but there were a few guys who were waiting to take a whack at him.
"I was kind of hoping for him," Valencia said. "After playing with him, we kind of know what he's got. But he's a good guy, was a great teammate. He's a great pitcher so it would have been a good challenge."
Japanese sensation Yu Darvish (1-0, 7.94 ERA) takes the mound for the Rangers on Saturday in his second start. The eight-time Japanese All-Star gave up five runs on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings of his debut, but the Rangers put 11 on the board to make him a winner. RHP Nick Blackburn (0-1, 7.50) will pitch for the Twins. ... Twins RHP Jason Marquis started the season on the DL while tending to his daughter, who was injured in a car accident last month, and is scheduled to rejoin the team Monday. Manager Ron Gardenhire said Marquis is tentatively scheduled to pitch Wednesday against the New York Yankees. ... Young's single in the sixth gave him 3,074 total bases in his career, breaking Juan Gonzalez's franchise record.