The Tampa Bay Rays flexed their muscles in a 7-4 win over the Minnesota Twins at Target Field on a rain-soaked Saturday. The game was halted for 70 minutes before the bottom of the sixth inning, but in the meantime the Rays pounded four home runs — including two with two outs and two strikes — in accounting for all seven of their runs on the day.
“The difference in the game was giving up two two-out, two-strike home runs when we had a chance to get off the field,” manager Paul Molitor said. “Those were the biggest ones of the day. (Evan) Longoria got a 3-1 fastball, but he’s been swinging a hot bat all series. But those two-out, two-strike home runs, those are the ones that hurt you. I think the biggest pitch in the game was when Ervin’s slider didn’t quite get away from Souza, and he hit a three-run homer.”
Twins starter Ervin Santana (1-5) started out quickly by retiring the first seven batters he faced, but after catcher Hank Conger broke through with a solo home run in the third, it was bombs away for the rest of the day for the veteran right-hander.
The Twins staked Santana to an early 1-0 lead in the first, as Eduardo Nunez singled up the box and stole second on the first pitch. Joe Mauer singled Nunez to third and a Brian Dozier swinging bunt plated him with the game’s first run.
The Twins answered Conger’s dinger in the third with a couple more runs of their own to retake the lead, 3-2. Byron Buxton reached on an error by Rays shortstop Brad Miller, and stole second on Conger, who threw out just one of 43 attempted base thieves a season ago. Nunez placed a perfect bunt down the first base line to reach and move Buxton to third, and Byron raced home on a Mauer fly ball to left. A rarely-seen Dozier double to right field plated Nunez and the Twins had a lead for the second time in the game.
Unfortunately, the Twins wouldn’t add another run until the bottom of the ninth.
Tampa Bay put together a three-run fourth inning off Santana, as back-to-back one-out singles from Logan Morrison and Steven Pearce had the Rays threatening. After Dickerson grounded into a 6-4 force for the second out, Santana threw a 2-2 slider that he was trying to bury. It was buried, but unfortunately that was off the bat of Steven Souza Jr., some 405 feet from home plate to give the Rays a 4-3 lead.
The Rays added another run in the fifth on a solo home run off the bat of Evan Longoria, his 12th of the year and his third game in a row with a longball.
Tampa added two more in the seventh, as Santana had given way to reliever Michael Tonkin following the delay. Tim Beckham led the inning off with a single that buzzed Tonkin’s tower, so Tonkin promptly picked him off first. Miller followed with a deep double to left-center that would have scored Beckham, and had to settle for simply crossing the plate when Morrison unloaded in a 1-2 pitch from Tonkin with two outs. Morrison’s home run traveled 427 feet, caroming high off the batter’s eye in center to cap the scoring for the day for the Rays.
The Twins put up a fight in the ninth against Tyler Sturdevant. After a Max Kepler fly out and a swinging strikeout from Juan Centeno, Buxton got the line moving with a single into center. Eduardo Nunez worked a 10-pitch walk to bring the tying run to the on-deck circle. Rays manager Kevin Cash got his closer Alex Colome (save, 14) in, just one night removed from throwing 34 pitches (and just 19 strikes) for a bumpy five-out save.
Colome worked ahead of Mauer 0-2 before Joe served a single into left to score Buxton. That brought up Dozier for a second chance against Colome in as many days. Dozier flew out to left to end Friday night’s game, and struck out swinging to end the game Saturday.
The power display by the Rays made a winner out of Matt Andriese (4-0), who worked five solid, if unspectacular innings with five strikeouts, no walks and three runs (two earned) allowed.
Up Next – RHP Tyler Duffey (2-4, 4.57) vs. LHP Drew Smyly (2-7, 4.77) – 1:10 p.m. Sunday
Notes and Quotes
- The Twins allowed four home runs in a game for the third time this season. The last time came on May 20 against Toronto.
- The Twins had two bunt hits and are up to 10 for the season — second in the AL behind Houston coming into Saturday’s game.
- The 70-minute delay in the sixth was the fourth delayed game this year at Target Field, and 25th in the history of the stadium dating back to 2010.
- Mauer reached safely for his 17th game in a row.
- Buxton is 8-for-24 since returning from Triple-A Rochester, and went 2-for-4 with his third stolen base of the season.
- Nunez had his team-leading 18th multi-hit game of the season.
- Molitor on the Rays’ penchant for home runs: “They’re capable of hitting home runs and rely a lot on them for their offense.”
- Molitor on the Twins not being able to get back into the game: “We had a lot of hits and a lot of opportunities we couldn’t cash in. Nunez — who has been playing particularly well for us — hit into a double play after we had bases loaded and one out. That was a little bit deflating as well.”
- Molitor on Buxton’s at-bats so far: “I think he’s doing fine. I like his approach. We talk about what he’s trying to do as opposed to what actually happens in the game. Sometimes he gets a little quick; he hit that ball pretty good that went foul. Overall I think he’s looking like a better hitter so far. It’s still early.”